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Pens-Flyers rivalry brings out banter, antagonism

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma criticized a media member's choice of orange in his wardrobe. Then he talked of turning over framed pictures of Peter Laviolette.

Laviolette's counter? "Enough of this sentimental crap."

Ah, it must be Penguins-Flyers.

Just in time for the Wednesday Night Rivalry presented by Coors Light, the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Atlantic Division antagonist Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

"Any time you play Pittsburgh," veteran Flyers forward Danny Briere said, "for us with the rivalry with them, it's not hard to get up for a game like that."

The teams share a home state and a birth year (1967). They have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs three of the past five seasons and are almost always battling each other for division supremacy -- or at least playoff seeding.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby famously said during last year's playoffs, "I don't like anyone on their team." This was two weeks after Bylsma and Laviolette and their staffs got into a midgame shouting match across their benches -- and traded verbal barbs after the April 1 contest.

Then again, it doesn't take a game to get an exchange going between the teams' two coaches -- even if it is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

After complimenting Laviolette's coaching and saying he respected him and followed his career as a fellow American-born coach, Bylsma said, "I'm not going to say there's not a rivalry there when he's the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers."

Laviolette was a groomsman in the wedding of Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato.

"There's a picture in Tony's house of Peter at Tony's wedding," Bylsma said. "When we had a staff dinner at Tony's house, I found that picture and turned it around."

Laviolette said he and Granato "go way back." Pressed further on his relationship with Granato, Laviolette replied, "You want to write a sentimental story today? I'm going to pass on the sentiment and focus on how we can take care of the Penguins tonight.

"Tony and I are good friends, but time passes on, you lose touch a little bit with friends. But Tony's a great guy. ... Enough of this sentimental crap."

The assembled media laughed. Someone asked Laviolette if Bylsma is on his Christmas card list.

"Moving on ..." Laviolette said, ending the pregame media session that took place less than an hour after Bylsma held his usual morning-of-game press conference in which he playfully scolded a media member about his choice of an orange tie.

Later, after talking about Laviolette (the two are prime candidates to be on the United States coaching staff should NHL players participate in the Sochi Olympics next year), Bylsma said, "He's wearing an orange tie tonight, I'm pretty sure. I have the same feelings about his orange tie as that one (the media member was wearing)."

Only Flyers-Penguins.

"Every time you play against them it's a rivalry, and you know there's going to be a lot of emotion in the stands and around the team," Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said. "So it's always fun to play them."

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