Penguins Notebook: Same players, but a whole new look for Flyers
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The personnel should be mostly the same.
The units in which players are deployed don't figure to change a lot, either.
But when the Penguins face Philadelphia tonight at Consol Energy Center, they shouldn't necessarily expect the Flyers to look much like the team they beat in a shootout Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Which, from the Penguins' perspective, probably is unfortunate, because the Flyers did not show the passion and commitment they generally do in games with significant stakes. If they had, the contest tonight might not mean nearly as much as it does.
And even though Penguins forward Craig Adams said "we expect a good game from them every night," they didn't get Philadelphia's best five days ago.
"They outworked us and won all the one-on-one battles," Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "If you don't work, you're in trouble."
And, as it turns out, you end up in a genuine battle for a division championship, because the first-place Flyers' lead over the Penguins in the Atlantic Division has shrunk to two points.
Still, Philadelphia has a game in hand, and neither team has an unduly challenging schedule after tonight.
The Penguins will have a home game against New Jersey and road games against Tampa Bay, Florida, the New York Islanders and Atlanta.
Of that group, only the Lightning figures to qualify for the playoffs.
The Flyers will have home games against Atlanta, the New York Rangers and the Islanders, and road games against New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.
Of those, just the Rangers and Buffalo figure to get into the postseason.
It was pretty obvious that the Penguins were happy to have defenseman Brooks Orpik, who had missed 13 games because of a broken finger, back in the lineup for their 2-1 shootout victory Sunday against Florida.
Odds are Kris Letang was more pleased about it than any of his teammates, though.
He and Orpik are defense partners, and Orpik's stay-at-home style gives Letang the latitude to get involved in the offense.
"We read each other really well," Letang said. "He talks a lot on the ice, so that helps me."
The Penguins have won a lot of games lately, going 6-1 in their past seven.
But they've had to do it without winning many faceoffs.
They were 25-37 against Florida, 15-24 against New Jersey Friday and 24-25 in Philadelphia the previous night.
That came in the wake of a 24-42 whipping in Detroit, a 21-26 showing against the New York Rangers and a 21-33 performance in Ottawa.
The most recent time the Penguins won more draws than they lost was a 36-21 effort March 13 against Edmonton.
The obvious explanation is that quality faceoff men such as Sidney Crosby (546-435) and Mark Letestu (361-293) are injured, but assistant coach Tony Granato, who works with the forwards, said that doesn't absolve the guys who are left of responsibility for winning a reasonable share of their draws.
"I'd like to say [injuries] would be an excuse, but we still have to find ways to get better," Granato said. "It does hurt that you don't have all of your centers in there, but other guys are still capable.
"You don't want to be chasing the puck all night, and when you're not good on faceoffs, you have to find ways to not lose them clean, to let your wingers help you out and at least give them a chance to get [the puck]."
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who scored the only regulation-time goal against Florida, has spent the entire season in the NHL, but has dressed for just 41 of the first 76 games.
He has played in each of the past 16, however, and has made the most of an opportunity created by injuries to Orpik and Paul Martin.
"Anytime you're out of the lineup, you're going to be a little disappointed," Lovejoy said. "I knew that an injury would eventually come and my time would come.
"We get skated hard when we're not playing. We do that for a reason. We do that so we're in shape and mentally ready to go if and when you get chance."
First Published March 29, 2011 12:00 am