Post-Morning Skate Update
— In the midst of a 9-2-2 run, the Penguins have surged near the top of the Atlantic Division and appear to be in the Philadelphia Flyers head a little bit.
The Penguins have put the heat on Philadelphia and the Penguins are expecting a different Flyers team tonight.
As Pittsburgh put on an impressive performance in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win, controlling the play for much of the game, the Flyers surprisingly lacked the kind of intensity the Penguins are accustomed of seeing when the two rivals get together.
Some Flyers players even called last Thursday’s game an embarrassing performance by them and they are stressing a different tune tonight. The Penguins are expecting a playoff atmosphere type of game at Consol.
— The goaltending matchup tonight will be Marc Andre Fleury (34-18-5, 2.28 GAA) vs Sergei Bobrovsky (27-11-6, 2.53 GAA) for the second time in less than a week.
Fleury is the hottest goaltender in the NHL right now, going 3-0 last week with a stat line of: 3-0-0, 1 shutout, 3 shootout wins, 0.61 GAA, .975 SV%, 77 saves on 79 shots
Fleury is 6-2 in his last 8 starts with a 1.68 goals-against average.
The Penguins have begun a push to get Marc Andre Fleury’s name out there in the MVP discussion.
“He’s our MVP,” coach Dan Bylsma said this week. “And I think he deserves to be mentioned as league MVP with his play this year.”
Fleury on Sunday established a franchise record for longest shutout streak at 150:14. He bested the previous record held by Jocelyn Thibault (136:13).
— Sergei Bobrovsky comes into tonight’s game with a 2-2 record against Pittsburgh this season, winning both games at Consol Energy Center. Bobrovsky (1-0-1) has stopped 66 of 68 shots in his last two starts and is playing much better over the past two games.
The Flyers have taken 3 of 5 games this season from Pittsburgh, including both at Consol.
Pittsburgh is riding a four game winning streak.
— On Sunday against Florida, the Penguins struggled mightily in the puck possession game. Mostly due to their struggles in the face-off circle.
Mark Letestu should be a welcomed addition in that area. Letestu will return to the lineup for the first time in 5 games.
“Faceoffs are a huge factor, ” Bylsma said this morning when asked on what Letestu adds to the lineup tonight.
Elswhere on the lineup front, Mike Comrie is expected to be a healthy scratch.Deryk Engelland will sit for the second straight game.
— The Penguins on Sunday established a National Hockey League record by winning their fourth straight game via shootout in a 2-1 defeat of the Florida Panthers. Will the team make it 5 straight tonight? The players appear to be hoping to get it down in regulation.
— “Would definitely be nice to win it in regulation and not go into overtime every game, but two points is two points,” winger Alex Kovalev said. “We set the goal to catch Philadelphia and get first in the conference and that is what we are doing right now.”
— Some in the media are saying that maybe the Penguins shouldn’t want to finish first in the conference. Don’t tell that to the players or Dan Bylsma.
Bylsma believes the Penguins ability to beat good teams to get them in this situation is of tremendous significance. “We beat Detroit, Philly, and Boston in big games. It put us in this situation, ” Bylsma said.
The Penguins appear to be a fired up tonight.
Neal – Letestu – Kovalev
Kunitz – Staal – Kennedy
Conner – Talbot – Dupuis
Rupp – Adams – Asham
Martin – Michalek
Orpik – Letang
Niskanen – Lovejoy
Marc Andre Fleury in goal.