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Top spot in standings on line for Pens, Flyers

by Dan Rosen /
PENGUINS (21-8-2) at FLYERS (19-7-5)

TV --

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 10-0-0; Philadelphia 6-1-3

Season series -- This already is the fourth meeting between the Pennsylvania rivals, but easily the most highly anticipated. They played three times in October with the Flyers winning twice in regulation, including a 3-2 decision on opening night at the Penguins' Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh won the only meeting at the Flyers' Wells Fargo Center, 5-1.

Big Story -- For as hot as the Penguins are right now -- and 12 straight wins speaks volumes to that -- a Flyers win in regulation would push them past the Pens for the top spot in the League. The Flyers own remarkable run (9-0-1 earlier this season), and four wins in their last five games have allowed them to stay stride for stride with the streaking Penguins.

Team Scope:

Penguins --
By now the numbers should be ingrained in any hockey fan's head. Sidney Crosby is on an 18-game point streak in which he has 20 goals and 16 assists. Marc-Andre Fleury is on a personal-best 11 game win streak, and on Monday was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week. The Penguins have won 12 in a row, five short of the NHL record they already own.

With that aside, let's take a look at the news, and it could be good for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the last four games with a knee injury, practiced Monday and said he could play Tuesday. He said he'll need to take the morning skate before making his decision.

"I feel very good. We'll see," Malkin told the Penguins' website. "I feel better every day. (Monday) I skated pretty hard. I feel all right. It's tough when I'm not playing. I understand that I need rest because my knee is a little bit sore. I hope I play (Tuesday)."

Flyers -- They've erased the sting of a tough shootout loss to San Jose last Thursday with back-to-back strong wins in which the defense and goaltending were sublime. Brian Boucher stopped 66 of 68 shots to pick up the wins against Toronto and Boston. Mike Richards scored with 3.0 seconds left to lift the Flyers to a 2-1 win at TD Garden on Saturday.

Boucher is 4-0-1 since giving up four goals in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky in an 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 18. Whether Boucher starts again Tuesday remains a mystery. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was not at practice Monday because he had to attend a family funeral, so the decision on his goaltender for Tuesday's game won't be announced until after the morning skate.

"I feel good," Boucher told reporters after Saturday's game. "I'm reading plays well and the puck is hitting me."

Who's Hot -- Well, Crosby is, of course. Fleury is sparking the Penguins and Boucher is doing the same for the Flyers right now. And Richards has to be feeling good after scoring his OT winner Saturday. It was his first overtime goal after having two others waved off.

Injury Report -- For the Penguins, Malkin is 50/50 and Chris Kunitz is day-to-day after he was banged up in Saturday's game at Buffalo, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. Kunitz plays on Crosby's wing, but if he can't go and Malkin can, there's a chance Malkin takes Kunitz's spot opposite Crosby.

Stat Pack -- Claude Giroux leads the Flyers with 3 goals in three games against the Penguins this season. Danny Briere has 2. Sergei Bobrovsky has a .911 save percentage against the Pens (82 saves on 90 shots). Kris Letang leads the Penguins with 5 points (1-4-5) against the Flyers this season. Crosby has 2 goals and 2 assists. Fleury is 0-2 against Philly with an .882 save percentage (45 saves on 51 shots).

Puck Drop -- Crosby still hasn't shaven off his "Movember" moustache, and he said Monday he has no plans to do so any time soon.

"Hopefully I'll keep giving it time to grow," Crosby said. "That's the idea."
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