12:30 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Today is the start of a big end of the year run that is going to determine where the Penguins will be opening up the 2012 NHL playoffs. It is no secret that the Penguins and Flyers will be opening up the playoffs playing each other but the question is still up in the air as to who will hold the home ice.
Right now the Penguins have three point lead on the Flyers with both teams having four games left. The difference is that these two teams will play for each other twice which will likely determine who is going to host the first and second game of the series. In terms of the Penguins getting the spot the magic number is now six. With a regulation win today that would cut the magic number to only two and pretty much give Pittsburgh the home ice advantage.
The Pens are coming off a really solid win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday while the Flyers lost to the Sentators in overtime yesterday. The Flyers fell behind 3-0 after one period of play before scoring three goals of their own in the second period and falling 2-1 in the shootout.
The Flyers are pretty banged up coming into the contest but I doubt that the Penguins or any of the fans are going to care at all. Red hot goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is still on the shelf after having fractured his foot and also missing Andrej Meszaros and James van Riemsdyk just to name a few.
Kris Letang is still out with a lower leg problem but word is that he could be a game time decision today. If he comes back that would pretty much leave the Penguins at full strength going into the playoffs and the final stretch run where they play the Bruins, Rangers and Flyers again. It will be interesting to see if they do give Letang a shot to play today. He is pretty important to this team and probably more indispensable than any other player not named Marc Andre Fleury.
The season series (Philadelphia leads 3-1):
December 8, 2011 - Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2
December 29, 2011 - Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 2
February 18, 2012 - Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 4
March 18, 2012 - Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2
The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Paul Martin
Brian Strait - Deryk Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury
The Flyers probables (via Empty Netters):
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Daniel Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zach Rinaldo
Eric Wellwood -Matt Read - Jakub Voracek
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Marc-Andre Bourdon - Pavel Kubina