Flyers open Consol Energy Center vs. rival Penguins
FLYERS (0-0-0) at PENGUINS (0-0-0)
Season series --
The Penguins won five of six meetings last season. … On Oct. 8, Alex Goligoski and Bill Guerin scored midway through the second period to help the Penguins earn a 5-4 road win. … On Dec. 15, Jordan Staal scored twice and Sidney Crosby's goal and assist lifted the Penguins to a 6-1 home win. … On Dec. 17, Crosby and Kris Letang scored shootout goals in Pittsburgh's 3-2 road win. … On Jan. 7, James van Riemsdyk
and Jeff Carter
scored two goals each for the Flyers in a 7-4 road win. … On Jan. 24, Matt Cooke scored with 1:47 remaining in the third period to give the Penguins a 2-1 road win. … On March 27, Crosby notched three assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves in a 4-1 home triumph.
Big story --
The Flyers and Penguins tied 1-1 in their first game in Pittsburgh on Nov. 4, 1967, when 4,179 showed up at the Igloo. Nearly four times that many, 17,132, were on hand for the final home game there between the teams last March 27. On Thursday, you can expect a capacity crowd of 18,000-plus to fill Pittsburgh's new state of the art Consol Energy Center with its wide concourses and fan-friendly views.
After 43 years at Mellon Arena (aka the Igloo), the Penguins will move across the street to the Consol Energy Center and play before what is sure to be a pretty boisterous crowd. The loss of defenseman Sergei Gonchar (Ottawa Senators) was quickly filled with the additions of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin along the blue line. The absence of Staal (foot) hurts, but the Pens remain top contenders with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Fleury in the fold. The team seeks a fourth 100-point season in the last five years.
Rather than acquire a goalie in the off-season, General Manager Paul Holmgren went with his gut feeling and decided to stick with Michael Leighton
and Brian Boucher
as his Nos. 1 and 2. That plan was revisited on Sept. 28, however, when Holmgren learned that Leighton would be sidelined a month with an ailing back, thrusting Boucher into the spotlight. That also opened the door for 22-year-old Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to serve as the team's backup for the foreseeable future. Holmgren did bolster his defense in the offseason with the additions of Andrej Meszaros
, Sean O'Donnell
and Matt Walker
and he's hoping forward Nikolai Zherdev
can help offset the loss of fan-favorite Simon Gagne (Tampa Bay).
Who's hot --
It'll be interesting to see if Flyers coach Peter Laviolette opts to reunite Ville Leino
with center Danny Briere
and Scott Hartnell
to open the season. The media-dubbed "Second Chance Line" combined for 11 goals and a plus-12 rating when they were put together for the first time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Leino tied a League rookie record with 21 points in the playoffs despite missing four games as a healthy scratch and Briere finished with a League-high 30 postseason points.
Injury report --
The Penguins are without Staal (foot). The Flyers will carry on without the services of Leighton (back) for a month and penalty-killing specialist Ian Laperriere
(post-concussion symptoms) for the foreseeable future. Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
(right knee), meanwhile, is questionable.
Stat pack --
The Penguins will take a 58-44-2 home-ice record against Philadelphia into their new building, although the Flyers hold a one-sided 132-85-31 series edge since both franchises entered the NHL in 1967. Pittsburgh's win total at home against the Flyers, counting the playoffs is 66, the same as the great Mario Lemieux's number.
Puck drop --
While the Flyers might boast the best top six on defense in the League, questions abound in goal. Boucher is the likely starter against the Penguins with the rookie Bobrovsky serving as backup. The Crosby-led Penguins will offer a stern first test in front of their hometown faithful. The Penguins and their fans have been waiting for this day for almost three months after suffering a stunning seven-game setback to the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.