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Facing Arch-Rival Flyers Adds To Opening Night Excitement

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Finally, after years of hype and buildup, CONSOL Energy Center will officially make its regular-season debut on Thursday night when the Penguins begin the 2010-11 campaign by hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. in a nationally-televised contest on Versus.

The anticipation of opening a new arena would have been immense no matter who the National Hockey League chose to schedule as the Penguins’ opponent. But the fact that the Penguins drew their fiercest rival only adds to what should be a memorable night at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Washington Place.

“I think it is always exciting to start up again, particularly at home,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “With the new building and with it being against Philly, there is no shortage in motivation.”

“I think playing the Flyers definitely adds to the game,” Craig Adams added. “I think it’s fitting and good for the fans to open up against Philly. I think it will be good for both teams.”

Penguins fans never have trouble getting up for a game when the Flyers make a cross-state visit, and that will be particularly true on Thursday night as the Flyers enter the contest as the defending Eastern Conference champions.

That title – conference champion – was of course held by the Penguins in 2008 and ‘09, which means the Flyers now holding that distinction is not something that sits well with Penguins fans.

“If you are a fan and there is a team you really don’t like, you don’t like to see them have success,” Adams said. “Certainly our fans would have rather seen in us in the Final.”

But sometimes that constant shift in the balance of power is what helps to make a rivalry … well … a rivalry.

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To keep the spice within a rivalry, it doesn’t hurt to loath a bit for the other team’s success. Which means one of the goals for the Penguins this season before they can reach their ultimate goal – the Stanley Cup – is to get by the defending conference champions.

“They are the team that went the furthest (in the conference) last year,” Chris Kunitz said. “We didn’t get that far, so that means our season wasn’t as successful. They got to the point where they were within two games of winning the Stanley Cup. We want to get back to that. Whoever stands in our way is going to be our competition.”

Heading into Thursday night’s opener the Penguins should feel good about their chances of taking down the Flyers and beginning what they hope is a journey which will allow them to dethrone the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ of their lofty positioning.

Including the postseason, the Penguins have posted an impressive 28-10 record against the Flyers since the beginning of the ’06-07 season, including an 11-3 mark in Pittsburgh and a 5-1 overall record last season.

Adams, however, cautioned against reading too much into those numbers. He said the Flyers have brought their ‘A’ game almost every night throughout the Penguins’ recent run of success against them, and the Penguins are expecting more of the same when the puck is dropped on Thursday night.

“You know it’s always going to be a hard-fought game,” Adams said. “Both teams are always going to be ready to play those type of games. A lot of those games have been close games that could have gone both ways. We have been fortunate to win a few.”

Thanks to a red carpet pre-game intro into the arena, the outdoor screen, a thrilling pre-game ceremony – and most importantly, the Penguins and Flyers doing battle – Thursday night should be another great chapter to add to one of the NHL’s best rivalries.

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