Philadelphia Flyers (2011-12: 47-26-89--103pts - 3rd in Atlantic)
Pittsburgh Penguins (2011-12: 51-25-6--108pts - 2nd in Atlantic)
1. RIVALRY RENEWED
This is the first of four meetings during the shortened 48-game schedule between the Flyers and Penguins… The two teams last meeting was the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series which saw a total of 56 goals (30 Flyers, 26 Penguins) in a six-game series in which the Flyers won, 4 games to 2… The series also produced a total of 314 penalty minutes (165 Flyers, 149 Penguins), 266 of those PIMs came in the three games at the Wells Fargo Center… During the regular season the Flyers owned a 4-2-0 record, including a 2-1-0 record at home against Pittsburgh… The Flyers are 141-82-30-7 all time in 260 games against the Penguins.
2. ON OPENING DAY
This is the seventh time the Flyers and Penguins have faced each other on opening day in the NHL… The Flyers own a 3-2-1 record in those previous six meetings with the last coming just two years ago as the Flyers defeated the Pens, 3-2, at Pittsburgh… Today is the first opening day meeting at home against the Penguins since the 1993-94 season when the Flyers earned a 4-3 win… The Flyers won the only two games in which they have opened the season at home against the Penguins… OVERALL, the Flyers own a 21-16-7 record on opening day, and a 26-12-5-1 record in their home-opener.
3. THIS & THAT
The reigning NHL MVP, Evgeni Malkin, comes into town after leading the League in scoring last season with 109 points (50g-59a) - Malkin recorded nine points (3g-6a) in six games against the Flyers last season… Ilya Bryzgalov went a perfect 2-0-0 against the Penguins last season, posting a 2.60 GAA and .912 save percentage… New faces debuting for the Flyers are (Kurtis Foster, Scott Laughton, Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais), while two players have returned after time away – Michael Leighton and Ruslan Fedotenko… Rookie Scott Laughton is expected to make his NHL debut today for the Flyers - it marks the second consecutive year the Flyers have carried their first-round draft pick from the previous season onto their opening day roster (Sean Couturier in 2011-12)… The last time that happened in consecutive seasons was more than 30 years ago (Behn Wilson & Danny Lucas in 1978-79; Brian Propp in 1979-80).
4. Player to watch FLYERS: Claude Giroux
Giroux will play his first NHL game as captain of the Flyers… He has led the team in scoring in each of the last two seasons with 76 points and 93 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, and has increased his point total by at least 15 points in each of his first four seasons in the NHL… Last season his 93 points ranked third overall in the NHL and 65 assists ranked second overall in the League… Giroux has also recorded a goal in each of the last two season opening games for the Flyers… Against the Penguins, Giroux has 15 points (7g-8a) in 19 games, including eight points (1g-7a) in five meetings last season.
5. Player to watch PENGUINS: Sidney Crosby
Crosby leads the Penguins against the Flyers with 69 career points, which includes 27 goals and 39 assists, in 39 games - this averages 1.69 points per-game… In just three games last season, Crosby recorded a goal and three assists before posting another eight points (3g-5a) in the six game playoff series… During the final 14 games of last season, he posted six goals and 19 assists for 25 points with multiple points in nine of the 14 games.
"I think it always comes down to heart and passion. That's what makes a difference. Us against them. Me against you. That's what determines victories. Not systems or anything other than that. I think we have a good group in here when it comes to that… I think we'll go out and play with some fire."
- Peter Laviolette
Season series: This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. The Flyers won two of the three regular-season games between the teams in Philadelphia last season.
Big story: This will be the first time the teams have been on the ice since their memorable first-round playoff series last spring.
Flyers: It wasn't a banner offseason for the Flyers, who lost on attempts at signing Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, and then watched as defenseman Matt Carle and top-line forward Jaromir Jagr departed in free agency.
However, the players remaining are pretty good. Top-line center Claude Giroux is healthy after sustaining a neck injury while playing in Germany, and linemate Scott Hartnell returns after his career-best 37-goal season in 2011-12.
Brayden Schenn, who has played well in the American Hockey League, could get the first shot to fill Jagr's role. His brother, Luke Schenn, acquired from Toronto in June, will fill Carle's spot on the second defense pairing alongside Kimmo Timonen.
All eyes, however, will be focused on the Flyers' goal, where the hope is Ilya Bryzgalov will be more comfortable in his second season in Philadelphia. Last season, in the first year of a nine-year, $51.5 million contract, Bryzgalov was inconsistent and at times drew as much attention off the ice as he did on it.
Penguins: Pittsburgh had Stanley Cup hopes last spring, but the Flyers dashed them in six games in the first round. Now, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin healthy at the same time, the Penguins will be looking to start the season the right way.
The big change for the Penguins this summer came in their depth down the middle. Jordan Staal was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, with Brandon Sutter coming back from the Hurricanes in the deal and expected to fill Staal's third-line center slot. The Pens also signed goalie Tomas Vokoun to back up Marc-Andre Fleury.
Also expect to see the Penguins play tighter defensively after the team allowed 30 goals in six games to the Flyers in last year's first-round playoff series. Young defenseman Simon Despres, a 2009 first-round pick who saw some action last season, including three playoff games, could earn more ice time with the departure of Zbynek Michalek.
Injury report: The Flyers will start the season without center Danny Briere, who is expected to miss about a week recovering from a wrist injury sustained during the lockout. … The Penguins will start the season with a healthy lineup.