Thats right kiddies, for the second and third times this season the Pens will face off against their hated rivals the Flyers not once but TWICE this week in a home and home series. You remember what happened last time right? (Apart from us beating them 5-4)
Pittsburgh has a golden opportunity here to really start driving nails in Philadelphia's coffin. They have played terribly of late not to mention the recent shake-ups with the firing of former coach John Stevens and his quick replacement by Peter Laviolette. More recently netminder Ray Emery, who was thought to be the low cost solution in net for a team who overspent (*cough* Briere *cough*) badly and is still over the cap, went down with an abdominal injury that is going to require 6 weeks to heal. To fill the gap left the Flyers went out and signed John Grahame to a try-out contract. Grahame last saw NHL action under Laviolette with the Canes in 08. His last time in net was with Avangard Omsk of the KHL during the 08-09 season for 20 games but has been out of hockey since. Brian Boucher is the current #1 but the Flyers still have feelers out with Atlanta, Anaheim and other teams as they try to solve their goalie woes.... solve their goalie woes..... solve their goalie woes. Man it feels like I've been saying that since Ron Hextall retired. 30 year old Johan Backlund is currently called up from Adirondack as the other keeper and has a grand total of ZERO NHL games under his belt. The feeling is that if the Flyers come up badly tonight and then in two against the Pens they will be a lot closer to pulling the trigger on a deal for a goalie, maybe even Marty Turco from Dallas.
4 game suspension for ambushing Matt Bradley in time to cause more mayhem Tuesday night. Maybe Max Talbot can say hi, it's the first time they'll face off since.... you know.
If the Pens can deny the Flyers any points in these two games it would seriously damage them in the standings as they currently sit 13th in the conference ahead of only Toronto and Carolina with 29 points. They are only 4 points behind the 8th spot Canadiens and a devastating week with a loss to the Bruins tonight followed by two to the Pens and a loss to the Rangers this Saturday would put them in the beginnings of an unrecoverable hole.
For the Penguins these two games start a true warrior's stretch in the schedule. After 2 with Philly we have Buffalo and New Jersey both on the schedule twice along with Ottawa and Toronto once before 2010. The Devils and Sabres are true east contenders so its as equally important that we come out of two with Philly with four points. Of those 8 games and their 16* available points the Pens truly need to come away with 10 minimum to keep pace in the east. Four to start this beast part of the schedule would be mighty nice, especially considering who we'd be taking them from.
About the Author: Jared OzVath is a PensU contributor and writer for Hockey Independent. His work has been cited by XM Radio's NHL Home Ice and Y!'s Puck Daddy Blog. He calls play-by-play for every Penguins game on Twitter which you can see at SLBD or by following @SLBD_InGame on Twitter.