After dismantling the injury depleted Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday in the Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia Flyers will travel to Pittsburgh this afternoon for the second half of their home and home series. The Flyers desperately need all of the points that they can get as they try to stay afloat in the crowded playoff race.
The Flyers are currently sitting right on the edge of the playoff picture, holding fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot. They are only one point behind both the Rangers and the Blue Jackets. They have two games in hand on the Rangers and have one game in hand on the Blue Jackets. A win today, combined with a Rangers loss, can put the Flyers into second place. With upcoming games against the likes of Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston (x2), and St. Louis (x2) the Flyers need to grab as many points as possible right now.
The Penguins have a commanding lead in the Metropolitan Division, but are second in the Conference to the Boston Bruins. The Penguins are pretty beat up right now. They will be without James Neal and Chris Letang. Yesterday they did not have Chris Kunitz either, but there is a chance that he plays today. The Penguins do not need these two points in the same way that the Flyers do, but they have their sights set on winning the Conference.
Look for the Sean Couturier line to be matched up with the Sidney Crosby line. Couturier did a phenomenal job shutting down Crosby yesterday. Also look for Claude Giroux to be out on the ice against Evgeni Malkin. However, because this game will be in Pittsburgh, Dan Bylsma will be able to do a better job of gaining favorable match-ups. Watch for the Flyers to do a lot of line changes immediately following face-offs to counter Bylsma’s last change.
If the Flyers want to be taken seriously as a contender they will need to earn a lot of points over the next five games. A Sunday afternoon match-up against the hated Penguins is a good way to start.