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Penguins look to extend Metropolitan lead vs. Flyers

by Adam Kimelman /

PENGUINS (5-1-0) at FLYERS (1-6-0)


Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins won three of the teams’ four games last season, including both games in Philadelphia.

Big story: Pennsylvania's NHL teams are heading in opposite directions. The Penguins have won two straight and five of their first six to take the early lead in the Metropolitan Division. The Philadelphia Flyers are going the other way, losing three in a row to sink to the bottom of the division. Can the Penguins keep streaking? Or will the heated rivalry bring out the best in the Flyers?

Team Scope:

Penguins: Now in his ninth season, Sidney Crosby has accomplished an awful lot. But after a three-assist game Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers, Crosby feels like he's off to the best start of his career.

The numbers certainly bear him out. He leads the League with 12 points, and he's tied for third in the League in goals (five) and assists (seven). He also has a point in all six games, tying the longest season-opening streak of his career; he had a point in six straight in 2005-06.

It's not just the offense, however. Crosby has taken the fourth-most faceoffs in the League (154) and won 55.2 percent of them. That ranks him 26th in the League, but the three players who have taken more have a lesser percentage. And he’s a plus-1 while leading the team's forwards with an average ice time of 21:29 per game.

"I try to evaluate myself not only on points, but on other things going on out there," Crosby said. "But it's nice to see them go in early on."

Flyers: It's hard to find positives when a team is 1-6-0, but Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he just can't shake the feeling his team is about to turn around its season. And he's using the team's 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday as a prime example.

The Flyers led 2-1 going into the third period but allowed goals by Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler to give away the game.

However, Giroux said he saw enough good things to believe that good times are just a puck bounce away.

"We played the best game [yet]," he said after the game. "It's frustrating. … We are getting better every game, that's how we all look at it, it's a fact. If anybody knows anything about hockey, they'll know we played a good game [Tuesday]. We played our best game and it's a good thing coming right now. … The frustration is there, but at the same time I'm going to look at the videos [Wednesday] … we played a good game.

"We are going to start winning games here soon and when we [do] we will be back in the playoff race here."

Who's hot: Not only is Crosby off to an outstanding start this season, he's playing one of his favorite opponents. Crosby has scored 28 goals against the Flyers, more than any other team. His 71 points in 43 games is the second-most he's scored against any team, behind only the 75 he's scored in 41 games against the New York Islanders.

Injury report: Out for the Penguins are goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) and forwards Matt D'Agostini (lower body), James Neal (upper body) and Beau Bennett (lower body). … Flyers forward Scott Hartnell (upper body) is out for about a month, and center Vincent Lecavalier (lower body) is expected to miss about a week.


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