Same plot, different opponent for Penguins

Flyers also potential 1st-round playoff foe



If the scenario today seems only vaguely familiar, then the Penguins aren't paying close attention.

The scenario today when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Consol Energy Center mirrors what the Penguins faced Wednesday.

That night, Detroit was in town. The Red Wings were a possible first-round playoff opponent for the Penguins and remained so after earning a point in a 4-3 Penguins shootout win.

The Flyers also are a possible first-round opponent for the Penguins, who are locked into the second seed in the Eastern Conference as the Metropolitan Division champions.

"It's a big game for them in the standings. a big game for us because we want to be playing well heading into the playoffs, and it's a potential opponent," forward Craig Adams said Friday after practice at Southpointe.

"Two teams, two different reasons to come out and play hard."

Scouting report

 

Matchup: Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 3:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.

TV, Radio: WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Probable goaltenders: Jeff Zatkoff for Penguins. Steve Mason for Flyers.

Penguins: Have won two shootout games in row, with Jussi Jokinen getting deciding goal both times. ... Are 15-6-4 vs. Eastern Conference playoff teams. ... James Neal has 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) over his past 38 games.

Flyers: Are 3-5-2 in past 10 games. ... Their 525 blocked shots in road games among lowest in NHL. ... Wayne Simmonds has 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in past 15 games, and Mark Streit has four-game points streak (no goals, six assists).

Hidden stat: The Flyers are the only NHL club with seven 20-goal scorers.

Philadelphia, Detroit and Columbus each had 91 points before the Red Wings and Blue Jackets had games Friday night. The Flyers or Blue Jackets will finish third in the Metropolitan Division (the Flyers held that spot on a tiebreaker before games Friday) and face the New York Rangers in the opening round. One of the three will finish as the top wild-card team in the East and face the Penguins. One will finish as the second wild-card team and face conference champion Boston.

The Penguins steadfastly have declined to state a preferred first-round opponent.

Flyers winger Jakub Voracek broke from that tradition Wednesday, when he indicated that the Rangers were his preferred first-round opponent because he wanted to avoid the top two seeds in the conference.

"Obviously, we don't want to go for the wild-card spot because you have Boston or Pittsburgh waiting for you there," Voracek told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Asked about Voracek's comment, Penguins center Sidney Crosby seemed skeptical.

"Honestly, it doesn't really matter what he said, what they want," Crosby said. "I don't think it really changes the way we approach things. I think you're going to play good teams in the playoffs whether you're [seeded] first or eighth.

"I don't really read into that too much. Guys stay stuff. They don't always mean what they say. I think they want to play well down the stretch. That's on their mind. They want to get the points because they want to play well. I don't think they're going to say who they want to play, who they don't want to play. They'll do their best to finish strong, just like we will."

If there was a touch of dismissiveness in Crosby's response, it likely has a lot to do with the Philadelphia factor.

That's the one area in which the game today against the Flyers differs from the one against the Red Wings.

The Penguins have a rivalry against Detroit after the clubs split in back-to-back meetings in the Stanley Cup final last decade, but it lacks the history and intensity of the sometimes heated rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers.

"I expect it to be a Philly-Pittsburgh game regardless of the circumstances of the schedule, the game it is, and what position we're both in or not in in the playoff picture," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I still think it has that flavor regardless of those situations."

This season, the Penguins won the first meeting between the teams but have dropped the past three. That includes 4-0 and 4-3 losses in a mid-March home-and-home weekend series in which the Penguins were upset with themselves because of some undisciplined play.

"I think we could probably do a better job keeping our emotions in check and not getting sucked into a game that we don't want to be playing," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "If we could just focus on the things that make us a good team, you're always better off."

The Penguins had four regulars out of the lineup Sunday in a 3-2 shootout win at Colorado, but did not rest any against Detroit. It didn't sound as if they planned to do that today, either.

"I don't see that being the case. It hasn't been something that's been talked about," said Crosby, the NHL's scoring leader with 103 points, who did not play in Colorado.

"You definitely want to play as much as you can heading into the playoffs."

Bylsma didn't seem inclined to have some of his regulars sit out today or for the regular-season finale Sunday night against Ottawa at home.

"We're going to try to win the game [today], that's for sure," he said.

"I'm not looking at it as a rest situation or looking at the two games differently because of the opponent or possible matchup in the playoffs."

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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