Game 18 Preview: Philadelphia Flyers @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Image courtesy of Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Philadelphia Flyers (6-10-1) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (11-6-0), 8:00PM EST, NBCSN, RDS, TSN2

RECORDS:

Philadelphia Flyers: 6-10-1
Away: 3-3-1
vs. Eastern Conference: 5-7-1
vs. Metropolitan Division: 3-4-1

Pittsburgh Penguins: 11-6-0
Home: 7-2-0
vs. Eastern Conference: 9-4-0
vs. Metropolitan Division: 6-2-0

GAME 18 PREVIEW:

Coming off of their best all-around performance of the year in Ottawa last night, the Philadelphia Flyers (6-10-1) head to Pittsburgh to take on the division-leading Penguins (11-6-0).  The game will be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network at 8:00PM EST.  This is the Flyers’ second game of a back-to-back and, coincidentally, the second game of a three-in-four road-trip; the Winnipeg Jets will play host to the Flyers on Friday night.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh last met on October 17; in what was a 4-1 trouncing in favor of the Penguins.  The Flyers, down 2-1 after being heavily outplayed in the second period, had chances to tie the game on two early third period power plays but were unable to convert.   After a turnover and breakdown in the defensive zone, Sidney Crosby scored on a tap-in at 17:28 to make it 3-1.  Evgeni Malkin eventually added an empty-netter.  The victory gave Pittsburgh a 10 point lead over Philadelphia in the Metropolitan division standings; Fast forward to almost one month later, the Flyers have been unable to make up any ground.  The Penguins are 9 points ahead of the Flyers coming in to tonight’ s match-up.

Philadelphia gave a complete team effort this past Tuesday night on their way to a 5-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators.  The Flyers are 3-1-1 in their last five and *may*, just *may*, be turning a corner after sputtering earlier this season.  Most importantly, the offense has finally clicked.  The top line has been able to contribute on the score sheet, a necessity that has to continue if the Flyers are looking to climb up the Metropolitan standings.

The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t played since Saturday night, a 2-1 Loss to the St. Louis Blues in which they were only able to manage 28 total attempts at the net (15 on goal).  They return home to face the Flyers on three days of rest (albeit practice).  James Neal and Kris Letang, who were missing due to injuries when the teams first met in October, have returned to the lineup.  The Flyers will go with the same lineup from last night.  Michael Raffl is still out with the flu.  Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill are healthy scratches.

Despite Mason’s 24-save effort and well-deserved shutout last night, Emery will get the nod in goal tonight.  It’s always a big risk starting a goaltender in both games of a back-to-back, and Frank Seravalli has pretty compelling evidence against going with Mason again.  Those numbers aren’t very pretty are horrendous.  Kurt R. over at Broad Street Hockey also wrote something up a couple months ago regarding goalies on back-to-backs.  Starting Emery looks to be the right decision (even with his .883 GAA/3.00 Sv% all-time vs. Pittsburgh).  Mason should be well-rested and ready for the start on Friday in Winnipeg.

PROJECTED LINEUPS:

Pittsburgh Penguins:

Chris Kunitz (14) : Sidney Crosby (87) : Pascal Dupuis (9)
Jussi Jokinen (36) : Evgeni Malkin (71) : James Neal (18)
Tanner Glass (15) : Brandon Sutter (16) : Matt D’Agostini (22)
Beau Bennett (19) : Joe Vitale (46) : Craig Adams (27)

Olli Määttä (3) : Kris Letang (58)
Brooks Orpik (44) : Deryk Engelland (5)
Robert Bortuzzo (41) : Matt Niskanen (2)

Marc-Andre Fleury (29)
Backup:Jeff Zatkoff (37)

Scratches:

Dustin Jeffrey
Chuck Kobasew
Paul Martin
Jayson Megna
Rob Scuderi
Tomas Vokoun

Philadelphia Flyers:

Scott Hartnell (19) : Claude Giroux (28) : Jakub Voracek (93)
Brayden Schenn (10): Vincent Lecavalier (40) : Wayne Simmonds (17)
Steve Downie (9) : Sean Couturier (14) : Matt Read (24)
Jay Rosehill (37) : Adam Hall (18) : Zac Rinaldo (36)

Kimmo Timonen (44) : Braydon Coburn (5)
Nicklas Grossmann (8) : Mark Streit (32)
Erik Gustafsson (26) : Luke Schenn (22)

Ray Emery (29)
Backup: Steve Mason (35)

Scratches:

Hal Gill
Andrej Meszaros
Chris Pronger
Michael Raffl