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Flyers, Penguins Meet Again

The Flyers and Penguins will meet for the second day in a row on Sunday.

The Flyers and Penguins will meet for the second day in a row on Sunday.

The Philadelphia Flyers drew first blood in Saturday’s home matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ll now look to make it two in a row when the two teams meet in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Opening face-off at Consol Energy Center is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET.

Looking to improve its playoff standing, Philadelphia (34-25-7, 75pts) – fourth in the Metropolitan Division and sat in a wild card position – earned a statement win on Saturday afternoon, blanking bitter rivals, Pittsburgh.

The Flyers took a no-nonsense approach to the first game in a home-and-home series, jumping out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals from Scott Hartnell and Matt Read (shorthanded). From there it was a case of controlling the Penguins, something few teams have managed this season.

Craig Berube’s side stifled the Metropolitan Division leaders, shutting down Pittsburgh’s league-best power play and getting the better of what is also the league’s best penalty killing team. Vincent Lecavalier’s second period goal was accompanied by Read’s second score of the game to complete a 4-0 shutout victory, and a second win in a row over the Penguins.

On a day that the team unveiled a memorial statue of Fred Shero – the coach that led the Flyers to two Stanley Cup championships (1974, 1975) and who just happens to be the father of current Penguins’ GM – it was the Flyers that got the better of the Battle of Pennsylvania. The victory seemed somewhat fitting; after all, it was Shero who once led the team from Philly to a 36-0-3 record against the Penguins.

But history, and even the recent history of Saturday, won’t mean much when the two sides take to the ice once more in the Steel City.

Pittsburgh (44-18-4, 92pts) has plenty of reasons to want to dispatch Philadelphia in Sunday’s matinee game.

The Penguins-Flyers rivalry is undeniably one of the NHL’s best, but there’s more at stake than simple in-state bragging rights.

Since February 1, the Penguins have experienced something of a slump. Dan Bylsma’s side has gone 6-4-2 during that period, losing its perch at the top of the Eastern Conference standings in the process.

Over that same period, the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins have gone 12-2-1, including a current winning streak of eight games, to jump into first place. The Penguins will look to gain ground on Sunday.

They’ll have to do so with an injury-depleted lineup. Pittsburgh’s injury list now includes James Neal (head), Beau Bennett (hand), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Kris Letang (illness), Paul Martin (hand), and Tomas Vokoun (illness), all of whom are out indefinitely. Chris Kunitz is also listed as day-to-day with a leg injury.

But the Penguins won’t be making any excuses. With Sidney Crosby leading the NHL with 88 points (31 goals, 57 assists) and threatening to play in all 82 games for the first time in his career, and with Evgeni Malkin (19 goals, 47 assists) playing alongside him, the Penguins always remain a threat to score.

Philadelphia will hope to shut down the high-scoring Penguins again on Sunday.

Having played in every game since the Olympic break, goaltender Steve Mason (26-16-6, 2.61 GAA) will be in net once more as backup Ray Emery (groin) continues to rehab. Mason stopped all 25 shots he faced on Saturday as he blanked the Penguins.

At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury (34-14-3, 2.26 GAA) allowed four goals on 40 shots as the Flyers bombarded his net. Fleury is just 6-5-2 over his last 13 games, which means Bylsma may give thought to putting backup Jeff Zatkoff (10-3-1, 2.70 GAA) in net on Sunday.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins odds for 03/16/2014

Playing at home, Pittsburgh (-178) opened as the favorite over Philadelphia (+162) on the moneyline, but bettors might want to consider the Flyers carefully ahead of faceoff.

Winners of eight of the last 11, Philadelphia is streaking at the right time of the season, and a matchup against the Penguins – a team so many others fear – is unlikely to threaten the side’s current positive outlook.

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have a history of playing well on the other team’s ice, although that didn’t ring true for the Penguins on Saturday. The Flyers though are 9-3-0 in their last 12 trips to Pittsburgh, a trend that is almost unthinkable.

The Flyers won 2-1 at Consol Energy Center back on November 13.

The Flyers (-180) are expected to cover the spread (+1.5) ahead of the Penguins (+160) as bookmakers expect this to be a close contest.

The total (5.5) is favored to go over (-116) rather than under (+105). With both teams ranking in the top half of the NHL in scoring, that could be the case. But then again, Pittsburgh has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, which could invoke the under. The total has in fact gone under in four of the last five head-to-head meetings.

After Sunday’s game, the Flyers and Penguins will meet once more this regular season, an April 12 matchup in Pittsburgh.

For a full list of today’s NHL odds, click here.

For updated NHL futures odds, click here.

For a selection of NHL team prop bets, click here.

For a selection of NHL player prop bets, click here.

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