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Roenick: Pens-Flyers a 'perfect' weekend matchup

by Corey Masisak
Jeremy Roenick isn't a big fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but that doesn't mean he doesn't recognize the impressive nature of the franchise's accomplishments.

The Penguins will face their bitter intrastate rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena (12:30 ET on NBC), and they are one of the hottest teams in hockey.

"I don't have any good memories from playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I didn't like them very much," Roenick, once a member of the Flyers and now an analyst for NBC, told "They beat us [the Chicago Blackhawks] in the '92 Cup finals and I've never had good memories about them.

That said, I do admire them and respect their dominance and what they've accomplished. I respect everything Mario Lemieux has done for that franchise, and I love watching them play right now."

The Penguins won their 10th consecutive game Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, soundly defeating the Eastern-Conference leading New York Rangers. It was also the first game back from concussion-related absences for captain Sidney Crosby and No. 1 defenseman Kris Letang.


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New York was missing three key players, including Vezina Trophy candidate Henrik Lundqvist, but Roenick agrees with the overwhelming number of pundits who have anointed the Penguins as the team to beat the conference -- and maybe the entire League -- now that they are at full strength.

"Yes, I do think [they're the favorites]," Roenick said. "Look at how they just manhandled the New York Rangers. Getting Sid and Letang back makes them a scary team.

"Teams want to rate themselves at this time of year, and this a "rate yourself" game for the Flyers. If the Flyers can beat Pittsburgh with the way they're playing right now, they have to feel good about their chances of competing for the Stanley Cup."

The Flyers have also been playing well of late, especially since the arrival of defensemen Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina near the trade deadline. Roenick said Grossman might be Philadelphia's best defensive defenseman, and those additions have helped goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov rediscover his elite form -- though Bryzgalov had a lot to do with it as well.

"Bryzgalov isn't worried about what everyone else thinks, and now he's playing better," Roenick said. "He isn't worried about the stars or the planets or the solar system. He's just worrying about stopping the puck."

The Flyers and Penguins have two more matchups in the final few weeks of the season. Pittsburgh has closed the gap on the Rangers for the top spot in the East, but Philadelphia is closing fast as well.

"It's the battle of Pennsylvania, and having Sidney Crosby back is probably the most exciting news in the NHL right now," Roenick. I'm sure Philly hates everyone saying Pittsburgh is now the team to beat and would love to put them in their place.

"It is the perfect game to have on NBC this weekend. It is a great rivalry and both teams are battling for playoff position. They might also see each other in the playoffs. It should be exciting."

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