What to Watch For: Pens vs. Flyers
Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 6:00 PM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
WHEN: April 1, 2012 - 12:30 pm | WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: NBC | LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM
While the Penguins have had their sights set on catching the first-place Rangers in the standings, Philadelphia is trying to overtake Pittsburgh for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The fifth-place Flyers cut Pittsburgh’s lead to three points by overcoming a 3-0 first period deficit to fall to the Senators in a shootout on Saturday.
Ilya Bryzgalov likely won’t play on Sunday in Pittsburgh, as the red-hot goalie sustained a chip fracture in his right foot on Monday. And while the injury isn’t serious and he is expected to return before the playoffs begin, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren officially listed Bryzgalov – who’s gone 12-3-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and four shutouts since being pulled in a 6-4 loss to the Penguins on Feb. 18 – as “doubtful” on Friday for their back-to-back set of games this weekend.
That was the case on Saturday against Ottawa, as Sergei Bobrovsky was between the pipes and made 26 saves in the setback. While there is still a chance that Bryzgalov could be good to go on Sunday, as of now Bobrovsky is expected to get the nod against the Penguins – which will be just his third start in 21 games. Bobrovsky is 4-2-1 in his career against Pittsburgh, with a .916 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.
What’s most dangerous about the Flyers is they have scoring threats on all four lines. Certainly, their top trio of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr has been the most productive all year long. Hartnell has a career-high 35 goals (two of those coming against Pittsburgh in their last meeting), Giroux has evolved into an elite playmaker and ranks third in the league in scoring and Jagr has 18 goals, 49 points and has been a respected veteran presence both on and off the ice.
But right now, it’s the line of Brayden Schenn, Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds that has been getting it done for Philly. Briere has battled his way out of a tough stretch, as the veteran center has posted nine points (2G-7A) in his last four games after being goalless through the previous 22. Simmonds has also broken out of a long goalless slump (16 games) to record four goals in his last three games, upping his career-high total to 25. The rookie Schenn has posted four points in that same three-game span.
FLYERS: DANIEL BRIERE
Danny Briere is a veteran in this league, as he saw his first NHL action in 1997. He’s no stranger to the slumps that can befall even the best players in this league, but the one he just broke out of may have been his worst ones. The 34-year-old center didn’t have a goal in seven games before suffering a concussion on Jan. 21 that caused him to miss six straight contests. Once he returned on Feb. 7, Briere tallied just one empty-net goal through his next 22 outings. But in the four games since, Briere has regained his scoring touch and his confidence as he’s piled up nine points (2G-7A) in that span. Briere is known for being one of the NHL’s best postseason performers (in 57 career playoff games for the Flyers, he’s got 29 goals and 30 assists), and he’s certainly heating up at the right time as the Flyers push to get the best seeding possible.
PENGUINS: STEVE SULLIVAN
Head coach Dan Bylsma shook up his lines on Friday against Buffalo, putting Steve Sullivan on a line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. It worked wonderfully, as Sullivan produced a three-point night (1G-2A) in the Penguins victory. But Friday was just one of a string of solid performances by the veteran winger. Sullivan has points in five of his last six games for a total of seven (1G-6A). With defenseman Kris Letang day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Sullivan has stepped back into the role of playing point on the power play and helped Pittsburgh go 2-for-3 with the man-advantage against the Sabres. Overall, Sullivan looked incredibly comfortable in his first game paired with Crosby and Dupuis, and look for him to build on that Sunday.
The Penguins are looking to end a four-game home losing streak to the Flyers.
Despite dropping four straight at home to the Flyers, the Penguins have gone 11-7 at home against Philadelphia over the last 18 meetings in Pittsburgh.
Over the last two seasons, six of the previous 10 meetings between these two games have been one-goal contests. This year, two of the four games have been decided by one goal, and the other two were decided by two goals (with one of those an empty-netter).
Pittsburgh has scored at least three goals in 10 of its last 11 games dating back to March 11 vs. Boston. The only team to keep the Penguins under three during that stretch was Philadelphia on March 18 (3-2, OTL). In those 11 games the Penguins have scored 50 goals for an average of 4.55 per game. They have scored five or more goals in seven of the 11 games.
Since Feb. 21 the Penguins have gone 15-3-1 in their last 19 games. They have scored 78 goals in those games for an average of 4.11 per contest. They have scored four or more goals in 12 of the 19 games.
Tyler Kennedy has scored a goal in all four home games against the Flyers at CONSOL Energy Center. He has five points (4G-1A) in those contests.
Defenseman Kris Letang, who has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, will be in the lineup vs. the Flyers.
D Kris Letang, lower-body (3)
D Ben Lovejoy, knee (3)
G Ilya Bryzgalov, chip fracture in right foot
D Andrej Meszaros, back
F Tom Sestito, groin
F James van Riemsdyk, broken left foot
Author: Michelle Crechiolo