Tale of Tape: Penguins vs Flyers

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On Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (12:30 pm ET, NBC) – here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Philadelphia: 45-24-9, 3rd in Atlantic Division.
Leading scorer: Claude Giroux (27G-59A-86P)

Pittsburgh: 48-24-6, 2nd in Atlantic Division.
Leading scorer: Evgeni Malkin (48G-54A-102P)

Dec. 8, 2011 – Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2. The Flyers were a point behind the division-leading Penguins going into their first meeting of the season. The Penguins, who were playing without Sidney Crosby for the first time following his original attempt to return from a concussion, were outshot 15-8 over the first period. Danny Briere netted the first goal of the contest just 6:38 minutes into the game. In the second, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell each found the back of the net to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

Pittsburgh staged a comeback attempt with goals from James Neal and Malkin, but Pittsburgh still ended up surrendering its hold on the division.

Dec. 29, 2011 – Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 2. Although they were held off the scoresheet in their opening matchup against Pittsburgh, two former Penguins turned Flyers — Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot — made their mark in this game. Both of them scored and Jagr had some fun at the expense of the Penguins’ crowd by saluting them following his goal. However, it was rookie Matt Read that ended up netting the game-winning goal for Philadelphia.

On the Penguins side of things, Tyler Kennedy led the charge with a goal and an assist. Jordan Staal found the back of the net for the 15th time and extended his goal scoring streak to three-games.

One of the keys to the Flyers’ success was their ability to shutdown Pittsburgh’s hottest player, James Neal. They snapped his eight-game point streak and limited him to just two shots on goal.

Feb. 18, 2012 – Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 4. The Flyers couldn’t stop Neal this time, but he wasn’t even their biggest problem.

Things started off well enough for Philadelphia, with Jagr scoring twice within the span of 18 seconds to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead going into the second period. They managed to maintain that lead for most of the frame, but then Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis and Brooks Orpik were each handed two minute minors just 33 seconds apart.

That gave Philadelphia the man advantage, which was something they apparently could not handle that afternoon. Staal and Matt Cooke netted back-to-back shorthanded goals to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead. You can check out Cooke’s goal below.

Eric Wellwood managed to tie the game back up with 1:19 minutes remaining in the second period, but things got even worse for Philadelphia in the final 20 minutes. Pittsburgh’s Dustin Jeffrey scored just 37 seconds into the third period. Dupuis and Neal added two insurance goals as the Penguins finally beat the Flyers.

March 18, 2012 – Philadelphia 3, Pittsburgh 2 (OT). The Penguins were riding high on an 11-game winning streak going into this contest and they had recently gotten Crosby and Kris Letang back. At the same time, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had been nearly flawless in the weeks leading up to this meeting.

The Penguins struck first, with goals from Craig Adams and Malkin in the first and second periods respectively. However, given that the Penguins outshot Philadelphia 27-10 over the first 40 minutes, Bryzgalov deserves some credit for keeping the game close.

His efforts paid off in the third when the Flyers finally made their counter attack. Kimmo Timonen and Hartnell both beat Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in the first five minutes of the third. The game went to overtime where Hartnell just barely beat the buzzer to give the Flyers’ a 3-1 series lead.

WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.

Predators marvel at Fiala’s ‘beautiful’ work in preseason win

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Confession: It was difficult to shake the memory of Kevin Fiala‘s frightening injury from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you need a reminder of the scary moment that ended what seemed like a breakthrough run, the video can be seen above this headline.

Another confession: personally, there’s been some concern about how well Fiala can bounce back, at least early on. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the young forward is his blazing speed; what if that’s been taken away from him?

Now, scoring two goals in the Nashville Predators’ 5-3 preseason win against the Columbus Blue Jackets doesn’t mean Fiala will avoid missing a beat in 2017-18.

Forgive Predators fans for getting excited, anyway, especially with goals like these.

Wow.

Filip Forsberg got borderline-romantic about what Fiala did on Sunday, and again, can you really blame him?

Again, the true tests for both Fiala and the Predators begin in October. Still, it’s better to look impressive at this time of the year instead of to go in slow (or injured, as the unlucky St. Louis Blues seem to be doing).

Gaudreau, other NHL players approve of crackdown on slashing

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When slash after slash broke one of Johnny Gaudreau‘s fingers, he called it part of the game.

The Calgary Flames winger known as “Johnny Hockey” is one of the NHL’s most marketable players, so broken bones should be a problem.

Slashing has become such a regular element in NHL games that it necessitated 791 minor penalties last season with countless more going uncalled. Gaudreau’s broken finger and Marc Methot‘s lacerated pinkie brought enough attention to the issue that the league is taking a stronger stand on flagrant slashing this year to cut down on injuries and obstruction.

“I think it’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: You don’t really know how bad a slash is,” said Gaudreau, who sat out two and a half weeks after surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. “But if they can harp down or look at it a little more closely, I think it might cause a little less injuries. Guys won’t be missing substantial time. I think it’d be huge.”

It was impossible to ignore slashing when Sidney Crosby sliced Methot’s finger open during a game in March, forcing the defenseman to miss three weeks. No penalty was called, and Crosby didn’t receive any supplemental discipline.

After members of the league’s competition committee recommended a closer look at slashing, officials have been instructed that it’s OK to call it more this season. NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said the rise in slashing over the past decade came about after the stricter enforcement of hooking and holding following the 2004-05 lockout with players finding new tactics to slow the game down.

“Players started slashing in between the hands and on the hands, and the whacking became hacking became something that became the norm in the game,” Walkom said. “It’s time to have a stronger enforcement to let the players know what they can and can’t do. If you’re going to be whacking a player’s hands six, eight feet from the puck, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be penalized if it’s seen by the officials on the ice.”

So many slashing penalties were called in the first few preseason games that it was somewhat comical. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere understands slashing but said he doesn’t know if it should be a penalty when no one knows why the whistle was blown.

Walkom sent a note reminding referees that the intent was to focus on slashes around the hands, not every time a player’s stick hits an opponent in the heavily-padded pants. Slashing at players’ hands will not only be an area of emphasis on the ice but also from the league office where new vice president of player safety George Parros is watching closely.

The former enforcer said slashes delivered with greater force or directed at players’ fingers will be met with fines and/or suspensions.

“We’re going to try and change player behavior,” Parros said. “We’re certainly trying to get rid of a pattern of a certain type of slash. If that’s like a harder slash on the fingertips as opposed to maybe in the elbow pad or something, that might be something we look at. And if it’s a pattern of a certain type of location slash or if it’s a pattern of a player, we’re going to look to eliminate both of those.”

Reducing unnecessary injuries is just one piece of this tighter enforcement. As with the crackdown on the hooking, holding and interference that mucked games up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fewer slashes should open the ice up for offensive players at even-strength and potentially lead to more power plays.

“In some ways it’s going to put even bigger premium on getting body position and not being stuck in a position where you have to reach for a guy,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “Usually that’s a positive sign for getting more opportunities to produce.”

St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo said he already noticed players slashing less often a few games into the preseason. That’s one of the intended consequences of calling certain types of slashes more.

“The players are the smartest people in the game relative to the game and they will adjust because nobody wants to sit in the penalty box,” Walkom said. “A lot of it’s reflex and habit, but the players will break old habits with a consistent enforcement.”

Old habits die hard, but it’s easier than healing broken bones.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.