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Sid-less Penguins visit surging Flyers

by John Kreiser

PENGUINS (16-8-4) at FLYERS (16-7-3)

TV: NHLN-US (HD); ROOT (HD), CSN-Philadelphia

LAST 10: Pittsburgh 5-4-1; Philadelphia 7-3-0

Season Series: It's hard to believe, but this is the first meeting of the season between Pennsylvania's two NHL teams. The Flyers won four of the six games in 2010-11, but the Penguins took two of three at the Wells Fargo Center and have won seven of the last eight in Philadelphia.

Big Story: The first meeting of the season between two of the top teams in the East will be more notable for who's not playing -- Sidney Crosby will sit tonight and Saturday night on Long Island as the Penguins take extra caution after their captain, who ran into teammate Chris Kunitz during Monday's game against Boston. He missed 10 months with a concussion before returning on Nov. 21.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Crosby sat out Tuesday's practice but skated Wednesday and showed no problems. But the Penguins said afterward that he "wasn't feeling 100 percent" and that he wouldn't go on the two-game trip.

"I don't know what I hit my knee on, if it was his leg or, yeah, just kind of a bit of a stinger," said Crosby, who hopes to return Tuesday at home against Detroit. "Nothing major."

The Penguins actually did better against the Flyers without Crosby last season than they did with him: They were 1-3-0 with their captain and split two games after he was sidelined for the season on Jan. 5.

Flyers: The Flyers have spotted two of their last three opponents a three-goal lead, but come home with a three-game winning streak because of their resilience. They were down 3-0 late in the first period at Buffalo on Wednesday, but rallied and won 5-4 in overtime on a goal by Claude Giroux. The NHL's new scoring leader also got the OT winner in Friday's 4-3 victory at Anaheim.

"That's the type of team we are, we don't quit," Giroux said. "We have a lot of character, and we're having a lot of fun here. The second period we played our game, and the third period, too."

Who's Hot: Giroux has five goals and nine points in Philadelphia's last five games, as well as the winning goal in each of the Flyers' last three games. Giroux also had the winning goal in all three Flyer victories at Pittsburgh last season.

Injury Report: In addition to Crosby, the Penguins are without defensemen Kris Letang (concussion and broken nose), Daryl Engelland (lower body), Zbynek Michalek (concussion) and Ben Lovejoy (broken wrist), as well as forwards Richard Park (undisclosed). … The Flyers are without captain Chris Pronger (knee surgery) and defenseman Andreas Lilja (high ankle sprain).

Stat Pack: It's not that the Penguins don't want their captain in the lineup, but they've learned how to win without him. In the 61 games he missed due to concussion before returning last month, the Penguins went 34-19-8 -- a winning percentage of .623. That includes an 11-6-3 record in their first 20 games this season.

Puck Drop: Thursday's game will be the first against the Penguins for Max Talbot, who spent his entire career in Pittsburgh before signing with the Flyers this summer. It's also the first time Jaromir Jagr will face the Penguins in a Flyers jersey -- he was widely expected to sign with the Penguins last summer after spending three seasons in Russia, but opted to join the Flyers instead.

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