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What to Watch For: Pens vs. Flyers

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (11-5-0) vs. FLYERS (7-9-1)
WHEN: February 20, 2013 - 7:30 p.m.  |  WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: NBC Sports Network  |  LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM

Frustrated Flyers captain Claude Giroux had pointed words following his team’s third loss in four games on Saturday in Montreal, saying “There’s no compete. We’re not winning battles. We’re just going through the motions. You know, we’re a young team that can skate. We should be winning more battles than this. It’s just frustrating to see. I know I have to be better, but a team is 20 guys and you need everybody to show up.”

After voicing his frustration to the media on Saturday, Claude Giroux produced a three-point effort (2G-1A) on Monday. (Getty Images)
Entering Monday’s game against the New York Islanders, it just hadn’t been going well for the Flyers. Apart from their compete level, the Flyers lacked consistency as well as discipline as they’re one of the NHL’s most penalized teams. In addition, a Flyers attack that scored 30 goals in six playoff games against the Penguins last year had been anemic. They entered the game averaging just 2.38 goals per game, which ranked 24th out of 30 NHL teams. Giroux had just three goals through 16 games, Danny Briere had three goals through 12 games and Max Talbot had yet to find the back of the net after scoring a career-high 19 goals in 2011-12. Their leading scorers were Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn with three goals and 11 points apiece. Matt Read’s six goals led the club in that category.

Well, the Flyers and their offense came to play on Monday as Philadelphia hammered the Islanders, 7-0. Eleven different Flyers finished with at least one point in the game. Giroux and Briere each finished with two goals and an assist while Read and Voracek, moved to Giroux’s line for the game, each had big days. Read had a goal and two assists while Voracek had a career-high four-point outing with four assists.

Coach Peter Laviolette has had to continuously shuffle his lines due to injuries. Right now, their biggest loss is top-line winger Scott Hartnell, who is recovering from a broken foot. Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Hartnell, who scored 37 goals last season and is a key net-front presence on the Flyers power play, will not play Wednesday but is possible to return later this week. The Flyers signed veteran forward Mike Knuble to a one-year deal after Hartnell went down, and he’s got five points (3G-2A) in 13 games.

One consistent postive for the Flyers has been their penalty kill. They haven’t allowed a power-play goal in five consecutive games, going 16-for-16 over that span. Overall, they’re 33-for-35 (94.3 percent) in their last nine games, thanks to solid work by Max Talbot, Sean Couturier, Ruslan Fedotenko and shutdown defenseman Nicklas Grossmann.

Ilya Bryzgalov has shouldered the load in goal, as he’s started all but two of his team’s games. Despite his losing record, he actually has relatively decent numbers in goal with a .911 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against average as he’s one of the league leaders in shots faced. Right now his backup is veteran Brian Boucher, who began the season with Philadelphia’s American Hockey League affiliate but was called up after Michael Leighton sustained an upper-body injury and was placed on injured reserve Feb. 10.

(Getty Images)

With Jaromir Jagr’s depature to Dallas and Scott Hartnell sidelined with an injury, Voracek has gotten ample opportunity to play on Philadelphia’s top line. And he’s been the Flyers’ most consistent producer, leading the team with 15 points (3G-12A) in 17 games. Twelve of those points have come in his last eight games. Voracek had a career afternoon on Monday against the Islanders, producing four assists in a much-needed win for his team while playing alongside Claude Giroux and Matt Read. Look for him to continue his steady play on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

Martin scored the game-winning goal for the Penguins with just over two minutes left to play in regulation on Sunday in Buffalo, giving him nine points (2G-7A) in 16 games. His other goal of the season came in the season opener against the Flyers, where he finished with two points (1G-1A) in that contest. But that’s not entirely why he’s the Penguins’ player to watch for Wednesday. We can’t say enough about how key Martin has been for the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins, as he’s logging big minutes on the back end. Martin plays in all situations, quarterbacking the top power-play unit and is first on the ice during a penalty kill. His rock-solid play and calm demeanor will be big on Wednesday against a Flyers team looking to get back in the playoff race.

  • The Penguins begin their longest homestand to date this season when they open a three-game slate against the Philadelphia Flyers at CONSOL Energy Center.
  • Pittsburgh has won three straight games entering Wednesday. The Penguins are 8-2 in their last 10 games, including a season-high five-game winning streak between Jan. 31-Feb. 7. Before this upcoming stretch, the only other time this season that the Penguins have played multiple home games was Feb. 10 and 13 when they hosted New Jersey and Ottawa.
  • Pittsburgh has won the past two meetings against Philadelphia. The Penguins have gone 3-1-1 in their last five regular-season games against the Flyers. On Wednesday the Penguins are attempting to win back-to-back regular-season home games against the Flyers for the first time since CONSOL Energy Center opened in 2010.
  • Following a 0-2 start at home this season, the Penguins have gone 3-1 in their last four home games, outscoring foes 15-8.
  • Sidney Crosby notched his fifth three-point game of the 2012-13 season with a goal and two assists against the Sabres on Sunday afternoon. Crosby currently places second in the NHL scoring race with 24 points this season (7G-17A), one behind league leader Thomas Vanek.
  • Not only has Crosby put up huge offensive numbers this season, but he’s also proving that he is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Crosby’s plus-11 rating is tied for the team lead and for the lead among all NHL forwards. Crosby has also been dominant on faceoffs, placing second in the NHL with 212 faceoff wins. Over his last six games, Crosby has gone 85-56 (60.3%) on draws. In 20 career home games against the Flyers, Crosby has tallied 36 points (14G-22A). He has points in eight of his past nine home games against them, during which he has amassed 16 points (6G-10A).


F Scott Hartnell, broken foot
G Michael Leighton, upper body
D Andrej Meszaros, shoulder
F Jody Shelley, hip

Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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