Getting a home-and-home series against your hated rival is, as Penguins captain Sidney Crosby put it, "why you play the game."
Especially at this time of the year. Because while games between the Penguins and Flyers are always intense regardless of when they play each other, there’s a lot on the line this weekend.
That’s because the Flyers are in a dogfight to make the playoffs, and since they don’t have a lot of time left – there’s just under a month remaining in the regular season – they desperately need every point they can get if they want to be playing past early April. And boy, would they love to take all four of them from the Penguins this weekend, starting Saturday in Philly and ending Sunday in Pittsburgh (which is a 12:30 p.m. start, a change from the original schedule).
When the Penguins last played the Flyers back in November, it certainly wasn’t sunny in Philadelphia. After a franchise-worst 1-7 start that saw the team fire head coach Peter Laviolette, the Flyers put themselves in a huge hole and were out of contention for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. But they finally scratched and clawed their way into a spot on Dec. 20, and have been fighting to stay there ever since.
As of Friday afternoon, the Flyers were clinging onto the eighth and final playoff berth (technically the second wild-card slot) for dear life with 73 points. Detroit, New Jersey and Washington are all breathing down Philly’s neck with 71, 71 and 70 points, respectively.
While the Flyers are fighting to get a seat at the table, the Penguins are fighting to be at the head. They enter the weekend one point behind Boston for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and their endgame is to overtake the Bruins.
“(Us and the Flyers are) two teams that are both playing for something right now,” center Brandon Sutter said, who's scheduled to play his 400th NHL game on Saturday. “Obviously they’re fighting to get into the top eight and we’re fighting for first in the conference right now. So it’s a meaningful weekend for us. We want to stay on the gas here, that’s what we’ve been doing the last 3-4 games. We’ve been playing pretty well, so we want to keep that going."
Here’s more from the Pens players on their home-and-home series against the Flyers…