Flyers-Penguins: Game 78 Preview

April has in a sense become the time for the Battle of Pennsylvania to take center stage. 

The Philadelphia Flyers (39-25-13) will meet their cross-state rivals twice in the final week of the season, and each holds incredibly high stakes.

The Pittsburgh Penguins (45-25-8) locked in their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday with a dominant 5-0 win over the Islanders. They come in riding a similar hot streak to when the Flyers last saw them, with wins in their last five games and 10 of their last 11 games.

Faceoff between the Flyers and Penguins is set for 5 p.m.

Flyers Leaders GP G A P Penguins Leaders GP G A P
Claude Giroux 74 22 43 65 Sidney Crosby 77 32 49 81
Wayne Simmonds 77 28 28 56 Kris Letang 68 16 46 62
Brayden Schenn 75 25 31 56 Evgeni Malkin 57 27 31 58
Jakub Voracek 68 10 42 52 Phil Kessel 78 26 31 57
Shayne Gostisbehere 59 16 26 42 Patric Hornqvist 77 20 28 48
 
Player to Watch
28 Claude Giroux 13 Nick Bonino
Last 5 Games: 2 G, 2 A, 4 P, +2 Last 5 Games: 3 G, 5 A, 8 P, +6
 
Five games left in the season and the first is against the biggest rival. This is the time when a captain steps up. Look for Claude Giroux, who has proven to have success against the Penguins over his career, to be a factor.
 
We can talk about Crosby, Kessel, Letang, the absence of Malkin all we want. Lately, it's the bottom-6 players getting things done for the Penguins. Nick Bonino has been all over the place, and if the Flyers learned anything from the last meeting between these two teams, it's that Bonino is dangerous in his own right.
 
Goalie Matchup
35 Steve Mason 30 Matt Murray
22-17-9, 2.48 GAA, .920 SV% 6-2-1, 1.86 GAA, .933 SV%

Steve Mason has been in a zone of late. He made 33 saves in another win on Saturday and has been rock solid between the pipes in making eight straight starts. The only time he's allowed three goals or more in that stretch was in the first game, which came against the Penguins on March 19. 

Matt Murray has been the Penguins backup, but with the news that Marc-Andre Fleury is out indefinitely with a concussion, the Penguins may be riding their rookie goalie into the playoffs. Murray picked up his first career shutout on Saturday, and despite not being used on both ends of a back-to-back at the NHL level, the Penguins may just ride the momentum into Sunday's game.

Flyers Projected Lineup

Scratches: Scott LaughtonEvgeny Medvedev, R.J. Umberger, Jordan WealMichael Del Zotto

Left Wing Center Right Wing
10 Brayden Schenn 28 Claude Giroux 17 Wayne Simmonds
12 Michael Raffl 14 Sean Couturier 89 Sam Gagner
93 Jake Voracek 52 Nick Cousins 24 Matt Read
76 Chris VandeVelde 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare 25 Ryan White
Defense    
47 Andrew MacDonald 53 Shayne Gostisbehere  
55 Nick Schultz 32 Mark Streit  
23 Brandon Manning 3 Radko Gudas  
Goalie    
35 Steve Mason    

There are no lineup changes again for the Flyers, who will use the same lineup as in the last two games.

Game Notes

  • Power Play: Flyers (T-18th, T-11th on road), Penguins (T-18th, 18th at home)
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (T-19th, 16th on road), Penguins (7th, T-12th at home) 
  • Recent History vs. Penguins
    • Jan. 21, 2016 - The Flyers fell to the Penguins, 4-3, in Pittsburgh. The Flyers opened up a 2-0 lead with power play goals by Brayden Schenn and Jake Voracek. But the Penguins rallied from the deficit for three second-period goals by Trevor Daley, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel. Kessel added a second goal in the third. Claude Giroux scored the Flyers third power-play goal late in the third to cut the lead to one, but the Flyers late rally fell short. Steve Mason made 41 saves in the loss. 
    • March 19, 2016 – The Flyers fell to the Penguins, 4-1, in Philadelphia. After a scoreless first, Radko Gudas got the Flyers on the board early in the second. But the Penguins responded quickly with a goal by Trevor Daley just 1:01 later. Late in the second, two quick goals by Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz seemed to put the game away and ultimately did. Kris Letang added an empty-net goal in the final two minutes. Steve Mason made 31 saves in the loss. The Flyers were held to just 17 shots in the game.
  • Flyers leaders vs. Penguins
    • Claude Giroux – 34 games, 12 goals, 22 assists, 34 points
    • Jake Voracek – 26 games, 12 goals, 16 assists, 28 points
    • Wayne Simmonds – 22 games, 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points
    • Steve Mason – 12 games, 6-4-1, 2.45 GAA, .928 Sv%
  • Milestone Watch
    • Sean Couturier needs 1 assist to reach 100 in his career.
    • Jake Voracek is playing in his 600th NHL game tonight.

Where to Watch
TV: CSN
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.