Flyers have another predictably unpredictable game against Penguins

Posted: March 16, 2014

FOUR MONTHS ago, when the Flyers and Penguins last met, Chris Kunitz thought he gave Pittsburgh a one-goal lead 19 seconds into their Nov. 13 game.

It would have been the seventh time the Penguins scored in the opening 5 minutes of their last 11 matchups - a stat that seemed to catch some Flyers off-guard.

"Over there or here?" Scott Hartnell asked about that game. "Did we win? You play these guys so much, everything seems to run together. One thing that is consistent is the energy, the emotion, the hitting, the stuff after the whistles."

Maybe that rambunctious, unpredictable energy is all these two sides take away from their previous clashes that make up the best rivalry in hockey. For Flyers coach Craig Berube, though, the opening few minutes are just one of the "game within a game" nuances he will remind his team about before today's puck drop.

"They're a fast-starting club," Berube said. "They come out of the gates as good as any team. They're going to come out with a lot of energy tomorrow - they have an attack mentality. We need to be sharp right away. For me, it starts in the faceoff circle. Winning faceoffs, getting pucks in deep right away and putting them on their heels the best we can."

Putting the Penguins - the class of the Metropolitan Division - on their heels isn't easy. It's just something the Flyers have a knack for in this back-and-forth series, with each team seemingly have an edge on the road.

Pittsburgh is a ridiculous 11-2-1 in its last 14 trips to South Philadelphia. The Flyers, with the help of Dee Jay's ribs as a postgame snack for the flight home, have gone 9-2-1 at Consol Energy Center since opening the building in 2010. Each team will have a chance to quiet the opposing fanbase once this weekend with back-to-back afternoon games.

"I think sometimes at home, the emotions get to us a little bit and we put ourselves in tough spots at home sometimes," Berube acknowledged. "It's a big rivalry game, it gets pretty heated at times against those guys and we've got to control our emotions a little bit at home.

"You need emotion in the game. But it's got to be controlled. You don't want to be marching to the penalty box or running around."

If the march of the Penguins is to the penalty box this weekend, the Flyers would appear to not have the upper hand. Pittsburgh is No. 1 in the NHL in both power play (25.4 percent) and penalty kill (87.1 percent). On the power play, new Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald - who saw plenty of the Penguins last year in a playoff series with the Islanders - said Pittsburgh is excellent both high and down low.

"Special teams is always big in games," MacDonald said. "It's the 'game within the game.' It's always going to be a factor."

The Flyers are riding an 0-for-8 slump on the power play in their last two games, something that drew chuckles from players once it became a topic in the media this week. They had one of their most productive power plays of the season last game against New Jersey in the first period but failed to score.

"We didn't do anything different," Jake Voracek said. "Sometimes you work like that and you go 0-for-6."

Overall, they've been quite productive on the power play. Pens coach Dan Bylsma has noticed.

"Their power play is a lot like the Capitals' - other side of the ice - but it's very dangerous in how they attack and what they do," Bylsma said yesterday. "They're a team that can score."

That scoring, those 8-5 or 8-6 games from the 2012 playoffs, is what makes these games so ridiculously entertaining to watch. It isn't necessarily a formula Bylsma thinks will make the Penguins successful. Yet the Flyers showed on Nov. 13, a 2-1 win, with the help of goalie Ray Emery, that they can win tight games, too.

"We don't want to be a team necessarily that wants to get into a chance-for-chance situation or up-and-down against the Flyer team and play that type of game," Bylsma said. "Maybe that's the type of game we've seen against them in the past. We'd rather have this be a 3-1 game, 2-1 game, 1-1 game vs. opening it up and going toe-to-toe with a chance game."

Slap shots

Craig Berube said he was not willing to reveal his starting goaltender for today's game . . . Correcting a typo from yesterday: The Flyers announced credit cards will now be accepted for payments in parking lots, effective for today's game against Pittsburgh . . . Sidney Crosby has 74 points (30 goals) in 45 career regular-season games against the Flyers. He is riding a five-game point streak against the Flyers . . . The Penguins have collected points in five straight games at Wells Fargo Center. They are 11-2-1 in Philadelphia since 2009 . . . The Penguins are 12-1-1 in their last seven sets of back-to-back games . . . In addition to Paul Martin (hand) and Kris Letang (stroke), the Penguins will also be without James Neal (concussion). Canadian Olympian Chris Kunitz (leg contusion) will be a game-time decision, but practiced yesterday.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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