Game 66 Preview: Keystone Rivalry weekend opens in Philly

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Steve Mason and the Flyers open a weekend home-and-home with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in Philadelphia. (Amy Irvin/38Photography)

The Keystone Rivalry gets two installments added to its storied history this weekend.

A potential playoff preview, all eyes will be on the Flyers two meetings with the Pittsburgh Penguins starting with Saturday's 1 p.m. start at Wells Fargo Center.

The Penguins sit second in the Eastern Conference with 92 points, one back of the leading Boston Bruins. Even with as much success as they have had since returning from the Olympic Break – 4-2-1 in seven games – the Penguins are an incredibly banged-up team.

James Neal is the most recent addition to the list, out indefinitely with a concussion. Forwards Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett and Chris Connor as well as defensemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang and goalie Tomas Vokoun are all on injured reserve.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury has taken the bulk of the work. Fleury is 34-14-3 with a 2.26 GAA and .918 save percentage.

The Penguins top threats are obviously. With a lethal power play led by Sidney Crosby, who leads the team with 88 points, and Evgeni Malkin, who is second with 66 points, as well as Chris Kunitz, third on the team with 54 points, there are scoring talents all over the ice.

Neal is a big loss for the Penguins, but watch for Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter to try to fill in for the Penguins.

While not nearly as offensively inclined as Letang and Martin, Olli Maatta and Matt Niskanen lead the Penguins into Philadelphia defensively in the wake of several absences due to injury.

The forwards for the Flyers haven't scored in two straight games but this could be the chance to break through. Obviously, with every forward going scoreless, Claude Giroux is on a two-game goalless drought. Giroux always gets up for games against the Penguins so this could be a big chance for him to make noise and add to his team-leading 65 points.

Jake Voracek also has experienced strong success against the Penguins as has Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, three players in massive scoring droughts.

Defensively, this is another test for Andrew MacDonald early in his Flyers career. While he has plenty of experience against Crosby and the Penguins, the newest Flyers defenseman will have the task of attempting to silence the Penguins offense.

Steve Mason will likely get the start in goal for the Flyers first game of the weekend. Mason is 26-16-6 with a 2.62 GAA and .914 save percentage.

Game Notes

  • Power Play: Flyers (12th, 24th at home), Penguins (1st, 3rd on road)
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (9th, 18th at home), Penguins (1st, T-4th on road)
  • The Flyers are 1-1 against the Penguins this season. They lost the first game, 4-1, on Oct. 17 in Philadelphia, but won the second game, 2-1, in Pittsburgh on Nov. 13. Brayden Schenn scored both goals in the Flyers win in Pittsburgh in November.
  • Milestone Watch: Vincent Lecavalier needs three goals for 400 in his career. Jake Voracek needs three goals to reach 100 in his career.

Flyers scratches: Erik Gustafsson, Hal Gill, Jay Rosehill 

Flyers Projected Lineup

Line 1: Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jake Voracek
Line 2: Vincent Lecavalier-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds
Line 3: Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Steve Downie
Line 4: Zac Rinaldo-Michael Raffl-Adam Hall

D-Pair 1: Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn
D-Pair 2: Nick Grossmann-Mark Streit
D-Pair 3: Andrew MacDonald-Luke Schenn

Goalie: Steve Mason

Where to Watch
TV: CSN
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet. 

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