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Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (9-4-2-20) vs Philadelphia Flyers (5-6-3-13)

Where: Mellon Arena
When: Thursday, November 13, 7:38 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
Season Series: Pittsburgh leads 1-0. Pittsburgh is 1-0 at home against the Flyers this season with a 3-2 overtime win on Oct. 14.



   Pens vs. Flyers 10/14
Pre Game: Crosby (11/13/08)
Pre Game: Scuderi (11/13/08)
Trib in the Locker Room
Therrien 11/13
Scuderi Will Be Game-Time Decision
Discuss this on the Message Board!
Shoot the Puck: Goaltender Martin Biron had a great performance on Monday against the Islanders, but has struggled so far this season. He’s been inconsistent during his career and hasn’t posted great stats against the Penguins, 11-12-3-1 record, 2.78 GAA and .898 save percentage. If the Penguins shoot often, good things will happen.

Fast Start: The Penguins have proven that they’re a team that can’t be counted out. They’ve overcome third-period deficits against the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings. But if they keep falling behind, they will get burned on occasions. Pittsburgh needs to come out strong and dictate the play. Philadelphia is struggling right now, but can’t be taken lightly.
Two years ago Philadelphia had the worst record in the NHL. General Manager Paul Holmgren rebuilt the club by stockpiling young talent and dumping aging veterans. The team rebounded last season with a 39-point improvement and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in head coach John Stevens' first full season on the job. Philadelphia signed 23-year-old Mike Richards to a 12-year contract and anointed him the Flyers captain.

Philadelphia has been a streaky team this season. They had a difficult start to the season, losing their first six games (0-3-3). They responded with four straight wins, followed by three losses in a row. The latest rumor is that Philadelphia is looking to sign 38-year-old Brendan Shanahan to add some leadership. To get better results from his team, Stevens is taking a new approach: produce or sit. He moved Joffrey Lupul to the fourth line and benched Scott Hartnell for the entire third period against the Islanders on Tuesday. Philadelphia defeated New York, 3-1. Stevens has sent his message, now it’s up to the players to respond.
The Flyers lost a lot of key contributors from last year’s playoff team, including R.J. Umberger, Vaclav Prospal, Sami Kapanen and Jason Smith. Holmgren didn’t make any flashy signings in the offseason, adding short-lived Steve Eminger and Ossi Vaananen at defense and center Glen Metropolit. But Philadelphia tried to bolster its defense with a couple in-season moves during the first month. First, they added Andrew Alberts from Boston. Then the team sent Eminger, Steve Downie and a fourth-round pick to Tampa Bay for Matt Carle and a third-round pick.
Philadelphia is loaded up front with young players like Richards, Jeff Carter, Lupul, Scottie Upshall and Hartnell. The Flyers return six players who scored 20 or more goals and ranked sixth in the NHL with an average of 2.99 goals per game last season. Add in Danny Briere, Mike Knuble and a healthy Simon Gagne and Philadelphia might have six players score 30 or more goals.

The Flyers are a dangerous offensive team again this season. They rank third (tied) in the NHL with an average of 3.43 goals per game. Richards is leading the team with 17 points (5G-12A) with Gagne right behind him at 16 points (8G-8A). Carter leads the team with nine goals to go with his 12 points. Briere will be sidelined for at least a week with a slight left groin strain, according to the team’s official website, and will not play against the Penguins. Briere missed six of the last seven games with an unrelated injury.
The Flyers have been scoring goals in bunches. The problem is, they’ve been giving them up in bunches as well. Philadelphia has surrendered 3.36 goals per game, seventh most in the NHL. The team has tried to address the issue by adding a few defensemen with in-season trades.

Braydon Coburn is the 23-year-old cornerstone of the defensive corps. Coburn and Kimmo Timonen emerged as top-tier defensemen and were particularly impressive in the team’s playoff run. Beyond those two, the rest of the defensemen are suspect. Holmgren reworked the defense, adding Matt Carle, Ossi Vaananen and Andrew Alberts. Vaananen missed the last three games with injury and will be a game-day decision. Carle is a young, offensively blessed defenseman. He was a Calder Trophy candidate two years ago when he posted 42 points (11G-31A) with San Jose. Carle had a disappointing sophomore campaign, registering only 15 points. Maybe the change of scenery will rejuvenate the young man. Alberts, a big body at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, adds a physical presence on the blue line. 18-year-old rookie Luca Sbisa has seen extensive action on the blue line after the team selected him with the 19th overall pick in June.
Martin Biron had his best season in six years last season, winning 30 games with a 2.59 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Antero Niittymaki is solid, if not spectacular, and a quality backup goaltender. However, both men are off to a rough start. Both are nearly allowing three goals a game and neither has a save percentage above .900 (Biron – 3.29 GAA, .890; Niittymaki 2.92 GAA, .899). The Flyers tried to upgrade their defensive corps to help out their goalies. Biron was spectacular against the Islanders on Monday, surrendering one goal and making 35 saves. He will face the Penguins for the first time this season.
Gagne was plagued with lingering concussion problems last year. He played in only 25 games and missed the entire postseason. Gagne looks like he’s finally healthy. He’s registered a point in 11 of his 13 games played this season and is second on the team with 16 points on eight goals and eight assists. He’s had a lot of success against Pittsburgh, with 35 points in 42 career games. He’s been one of the team’s most consistent players and scored a goal against the Penguins when the clubs met on Oct. 14.
“It’s going to be a tough game (Thursday). They always come to this building and play very hard. I’m pretty excited about the game and hopefully (we can) get a couple points.”
- Petr Sykora
8-1-0: The Penguins record against Philadelphia at Mellon Arena in the past three seasons.

Author: Sam Kasan

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