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Flyers-Penguins: The NHLs Hottest Team Versus Its Most Rested

Mar 24, 2013, 5:04 PM EDT

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The NCAA Tournament has been a welcome distraction from the
misery that is the pro sports landscape in Philadelphia, and in particular the
Flyers who have been idle the entire time. Tonight Orange & Black attempts
to reel us back in as the club renews its intense rivalry with the Pittsburgh
Penguins.

Amazingly enough, the time off did not damage the Bullies’
playoff chances significantly more than they had already managed to do
themselves. The Flyers were five points back of the eighth seed after losing to
the Tampa Bay Lightning last Monday, and they remain five points back entering
the matchup with the Pens. Meanwhile, the games played column finally evened
itself out, to the point where most of the Eastern Conference have actually
passed Philly.

As bad as this season has been, the Flyers are still in
control of their own destiny. It’s only a question of whether they can
capitalize.

They begin to form their answer in Pittsburgh against the
hottest team on ice. The Penguins have yet to lose in the month of March,
riding an 11-game winning streak to a comfortable 12-point lead in the Atlantic
Division and first place in the East. They have also tied the Chicago
Blackhawks for the most wins in the NHL with 24, and are three points removed
from claiming ownership of the best record in the league.

The Pens are getting the job done on both ends. They are
averaging four goals per game during the streak, and have not allowed more than
two in a tilt over the last seven. What’s more, they’ve been without Evgeni
Malkin for two weeks now as the 2011-12 MVP takes care of a shoulder injury.
High-scoring defenseman Kris Letang has recently become unavailable as well.

Speaking of injuries, Tim Panaccio reports Danny Briere will
not be in uniform for the Flyers. Briere suffered an upper-body injury in practice
last week, and is expected to be replaced by Harry Zolnierczyk, which is about
as detailed as the news gets. It hasn’t been a productive season for Danny to
say the least, but you would rather have him in the lineup than not.

Of course, a bunch of this stuff –injuries, trends, the
standings – flies right out the window whenever these two teams square off, as
tends to happen with any good rivalry. Little has been predictable about their
recent encounters, other than the action typically is going to get wild.

In their last meeting, the Flyers stormed out to a 4-1 lead,
looking absolutely dominant in every phase of the game. The Penguins turned the
tables on them in the second period, and had the score knotted up before
heading back into the dressing room. A quick goal in the third period proved to
be enough, lifting Pittsburgh to a huge comeback victory, and the third W of
their current streak. It also gave them a 2-1 series lead for the season.

There is one statistic that has held up through this rivalry
so far however, that being Philly’s record at CONSOL Energy Center. Including
playoffs, the Flyers are 8-2 in the Penguins’ building.

The Flyers have fresh legs, but what they really need is a
fresh outlook moving forward. The season is not quite lost yet like many
expected it would be coming out of the five-day break, and earning two points
in Pittsburgh could make a statement.

With La Salle still going strong, we expect there will be a
lot of flipping channels in the Delaware Valley on Sunday night. Flyers-Pens
have been appointment viewing though, so don’t miss it.