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Penguins Expect to See Flyers' Best As Series Shifts to Philadelphia

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
PHILADELPHIA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t clinch home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs until the final day of the regular season. It was worth the wait.

The Penguins quickly re-established their dominance at Mellon Arena - the team went 9-2 at home in last year’s Stanley Cup run - by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening two contests to take a 2-0 series lead.

“We want to be tough to play here,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We want to make it tough for teams that come here. We did that in these two games and now we have to go against them in Philly.”

The series moves to Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center, which will host Game 3 Sunday at 3 p.m. and Game 4 Tuesday at 7 p.m. With the Flyers desperately trying to avoid dropping to 3-0 in the series, the Penguins expect Philadelphia will come out of the game with a do-or-die mentality.

They’re at home and down 2-0. I’m sure they’re going to throw everything they have at us because they don’t want to go down 3-0 and have to win four from us in a row. - Rob Scuderi
“A team senses that once they’re down 3-0, the chances of coming back are slim to none, not that it hasn’t happened or that we wouldn’t be worried about it happening to us,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “They’re at home and down 2-0. I’m sure they’re going to throw everything they have at us because they don’t want to go down 3-0 and have to win four from us in a row.”

Philadelphia will also have the advantage of playing in front of their fans, which will no doubt create a hostile environment for the Penguins and energize the Flyers.

“They’re pretty loud,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We don’t want to give them any momentum. We expect a hard game against them, an intense game. We know they’re going to come out hard in their first game at home.”

The Penguins are familiar with playing the third installment of a series on the road with the luxury of a 2-0 advantage. Last postseason, Pittsburgh opened the first three rounds with a 2-0 mark before hitting the road. The Penguins won that third game in all three contests en route to a Stanley Cup berth.

Philadelphia is 2-12 in its history when trailing 0-2, and 0-4 when dropping the first three games of a seven-game series, including last season’s loss to the Penguins. A Flyers’ loss on Sunday will put their postseason aspirations on life support.

With the Flyers fighting for their lives, the Penguins know what to expect when the puck hits the ice. 

“Every game against Philly is a tough game to win,” veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. “There are never any easy ones, especially with them playing their first home game. It’s going to be very tough. As a team, as long as we’re moving, playing well and winning it doesn’t matter which game it is.”

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has played in many hostile road environments during his hockey career and he ranks Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center high on the list. 

“Yeah, it’s up there,” Crosby said. “Washington is also pretty high but Philadelphia definitely gets loud and can be a tough place to play.”

Crosby and the Penguins, who won the first two contests, continue their opening-round series with the Flyers Sunday and Tuesday in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh was 2-1-0 at Wachovia Center in the regular season and shouldn’t be surprised by the atmosphere. 

“There’s a lot of noise and everything is magnified a bit,” Crosby said. “You could have an OK scoring chance or a hit could be an average hit but with the loud noises it seems like a big one. So you really have to control your emotions when you’re on the road. That’s a good test for us but we’ve been in that situation before and we’ll try to utilize that experience.”

In fact, just last year the Penguins found themselves in that exact situation when they faced the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Final. Pittsburgh was ahead in the series, 2-0, heading to Philadelphia. So the Penguins shouldn’t be surprised by whatever Philadelphia throws at them. 

“We expect them to take it up another notch being at home,” Crosby said. “It doesn’t get any easier. It just gets tougher. We just have to keep playing the same way. We approach every game like it’s a new one. With it being the first one in their building we want to make sure that we play well. We know they’re going to come hard and be desperate. It’s a big game.”

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