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What to Watch For: Pens vs. Flyers

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (32-20-5) vs. FLYERS (32-18-7)
WHEN: Feb. 18, 2012 - 1:00 pm  |  WHERE: Wells Fargo Center

WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins 24/7 Radio, 105.9 FM

Philadelphia moved two points ahead of Pittsburgh for second place in the Atlantic Division standings – and fourth in the Eastern Conference – with their 7-2 rout of Buffalo on Thursday.

Claude Giroux notched 5 assists Thursday to move within 2 points of Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring lead (Getty Images).
The win was an important one for the Flyers, as they’d lost five of their last six entering the contest. It was also a much-needed victory in front of their home crowd, as the Flyers improved to just 14-9-5 this season in their own barn – which is usually one of the NHL’s toughest places to play.

The Flyers certainly showed why they have the league’s top-ranked offense with their seven-goal performance on Thursday. Claude Giroux tallied a personal-best five assists to climb within two points of Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring lead, while Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot each scored twice to continue expanding their career highs in that category.

However, Philly did lose Danny Briere after the first period with an upper-body injury while Tom Sestito left in the second with a lower-body injury. In addition, winger Jaromir Jagr – who’s got just one goal since the Flyers and Penguins met on Dec. 29 – sat out with the flu and forward James van Riemsdyk has been out since Jan. 14 with a concussion. There is no word yet on whether any of those players will be available for Saturday’s game.

The Flyers may be high powered offensively, but they haven’t been as strong on the other end of the ice as they rank among league’s bottom third in that category. General manager Paul Holmgren addressed that on Thursday when he acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman from Dallas in exchange for a second and third round pick. The 27-year-old blueliner will add some much-needed size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and muscle in the defensive zone and should make his Flyers debut against the Penguins.

Ilya Bryzgalov got the win in goal Thursday after missing three straight with the flu. Bryzgalov has been playing well, allowing a total of eight goals in his last five games, but it’s definitely possible that the Penguins may see Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes. He’s 4-1-1 in his young career against Pittsburgh.



The former fan favorite here in Pittsburgh is having a career year in his first season in black and orange. Talbot has four goals in his last four games, including two in Philadelphia’s 7-2 win over Buffalo on Thursday. That increases his career-best total to 16, surpassing his previous high of 13 set in 2006-07 with the Penguins. Not only is he putting up decent numbers, but he’s also excelling in his defensive responsibilities. Talbot is 33-of-47 (70 percent) in the faceoff dot over his last four games and is the team’s top penalty killing forward, seeing 3:43 shorthanded minutes per game. Look for Talbot to put forth his best effort against his old team.

Letang proved last weekend that he can produce offense while excelling in a shutdown role against other teams’ top players, and the Penguins could use more of the same from him against Philadelphia. The 24-year-old blueliner scored three goals and six points in wins against Winnipeg on Feb. 11 and Tampa Bay on Feb. 12 while being matched up against each of those clubs’ top scorers. And since the Flyers have the NHL’s top-ranked offense – averaging 3.30 goals per game – the Penguins will need Letang to do his part to keep them off the scoresheet while chipping in at the other end.

And consider this:

With Letang in the lineup this season, the Penguins are 20-9-5 (.662 pct.), compared to just 12-11-0 (.522 pct.) without him. When Letang records a point, the Penguins have gone 16-2-2 (.850 pct.). (Thanks to Penguins manager of communications Jason Seidling for the stats).

The Penguins are looking to break a three-game losing streak to the Flyers, including losses in both meetings between the teams this season.

Pittsburgh has gone 7-3 in its last 10 games at the Wells Fargo Center dating back to 2008-09. During that stretch they have scored 31 regulation goals for an average of 3.1 per contest. Five of Pittsburgh’s seven wins have been one-goal games (5-1 vs. PHI in 1-goal games overall).

Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury have fared well historically when visiting the Wells Fargo Center. In 17 career appearances in Philadelphia, Malkin has 25 points (11G-14A) for a 1.47 point-per-game average. Malkin has tallied at least one point in 15 of his 17 games in Philadelphia, including a current nine-game point streak here dating back to Dec. 13, 2008 (6G-7A).

He has had multiple-point games in eight of his 17 games here, including his last two visits. Malkin also has a five-game overall point streak against Philadelphia dating back to Oct. 16, 2010. During those five games he has three goals and four assists.

Fleury has made 16 career appearances in Philadelphia, going 10-5 with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. In those 16 games, Fleury has stopped 425-of-470 shots in 938 total minutes. Fleury has a 5-2 record in Philadelphia in his last seven starts here.

The Penguins removed Arron Asham from injured reserve on Friday afternoon. The veteran forward skated with his teammates for the first time in a non-contact practice Tuesday and partook in their skates Wednesday and Friday. He is on the Philadelphia/Buffalo road trip with the team and is hoping to play this weekend.

Tyler Kennedy has a high-ankle sprain and is approximately 4-6 weeks for recovery. Kennedy sustained the injury late in the third period of Pittsburgh's game against New Jersey on Feb. 5.

The Flyers announced following practice Friday that forward Tom Sestito will have surgery to repair a torn groin muscle and will be out 6-8 weeks. He left Thursday's game vs. Buffalo in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return.

Danny Briere also left Thursday's game
in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. He practiced on Friday with the team wearing a no-contact jersey.

Jaromir Jagr was also practicing with the team on Friday after missing Thursday's game with the flu.

F Arron Asham, illness/concussion-like symptoms (14)
C Sidney Crosby, concussion-like symptoms (30)
F Tyler Kennedy, high ankle sprain (4)

F Jaromir Jagr. flu (1)
D Chris Pronger, severe post-concussion syndrome (38)
F James van Riemsdyk, concussion (15)

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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