Preview: Penguins at Flyers
The recent play of the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins have the Keystone State representatives headed in opposite directions, with a 9-0-1 stretch putting the former within earshot of the latter in their respective pursuits of a playoff berth. The Flyers look to close the gap even further when they host the Penguins on Monday.
Carter Hart, who boasts an 8-0-0 mark and .934 save percentage during Philadelphia's last 10 games, will look to snap a tie with Jocelyn Thibault (Quebec, 1995) for the NHL record of consecutive victories by a rookie before turning 21. "I don't really think about that. I don't really look at those things," the 20-year-old Hart told reporters after making 30 saves in Saturday's 6-2 romp over Anaheim. "Sure it's cool, but we just want to win hockey games and right now we've been playing really good hockey." Conversely, Pittsburgh heads into the finale of a three-game road trip with four straight losses and six in its last eight (2-5-1). "I still think to a certain extent, the type of mistakes that we make, we beat ourselves," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters following Saturday's 5-4 setback at Tampa Bay.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, TVA, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, NBCS Philadelphia
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (28-20-7): Captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the team with 62 points, celebrated playing in his franchise-best 916th game by setting up Tanner Pearson's third-period goal against the Lightning. The two-time Hart Trophy recipient has tormented Philadelphia throughout his career, scoring in a 4-2 loss on Dec. 1 to boost his point total to a staggering 94 (39 goals, 55 assists) in 64 career matches with the Flyers. Evgeni Malkin (team-leading 41 assists), who also captured Hart Trophy honors in 2012, could miss his sixth straight game with an upper-body injury.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (25-23-7): Sean Couturier pushed his goal-scoring run to four games by netting his team-leading 23rd tally midway into the first period versus the Ducks. The 26-year-old set up two other goals to push his point streak to six contests (four goals, five assists) while fellow forward Jakub Voracek has two goals and six assists during his six-game run. Couturier set up Voracek's goal with 22 seconds remaining in the third period to seal Philadelphia's victory over Pittsburgh in December, the teams' first meeting since their six-game first-round series that was won by the Penguins.
1. Penguins RW Phil Kessel has been held off the scoresheet in each of his last four games.
2. Philadelphia captain F Claude Giroux, who has team-high totals in assists (42) and points (58), has collected 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists) in 45 career encounters with Pittsburgh.
3. The next contest between the Penguins and Flyers will be held outdoors, as the teams will reconvene at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Feb. 23.
PREDICTION: Penguins 4, Flyers 2