Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Flyers, Penguins enter next chapter of their clash

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers will head to the Consol Energy Center for a match against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Few rivalries have been more intense than that of the Penguins and Flyers in recent years.

The two teams have met in the playoffs three times in the previous five years and their most recent series in 2012 had just about everything – except maybe goaltending. They scored a combined 56 goals in just six games.

That’s not hard to believe when you look at the elite forwards on either squad. This season though, only one of the two teams have lived up to expectations.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have gotten off to an 11-5-0 start thanks in no small part to the continued success that forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal have enjoyed. However, they’ve also gotten a couple pleasant surprises, like Chris Kunitz recording 14 points in his last nine games.

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The Flyers have had surprises too, but not all of them good.

Part of Philadelphia’s struggles can be blamed on injuries, but, as captain Claude Giroux put it, there have been plenty of times when the Flyers have just gone through the motions.

Their shaky start has led to questions about GM Paul Holmgren or head coach Peter Laviolette’s job security. That prompted team president Peter Lukko to stand up for the GM and coach while also preaching a message of patience.

A mere day later, the Philadelphia Flyers responded to that vote of confidence with a crushing 7-0 victory over the New York Islanders.

Of course, that was just one game and it was against a team that’s not typically held in high regard. Crosby and the Penguins will be a much tougher test, but you can count the Flyers putting everything they have into this contest.

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Probable goaltenders: PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (8-3-0, 2.34 GAA, .914 SV%) | PHI – Ilya Bryzgalov (7-7-1, 2.42 GAA, .911 SV%)

Top scorers: PIT – Crosby (7-17-24, 16 GP) | PHI – Jakub Voracek (3-12-15, 17 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Pittsburgh – Forwards: None
Philadelphia – Forwards: Jody Shelley (hip), Scott Hartnell (foot) Defensemen: Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion), Chris Pronger (concussion) Goaltenders: Michael Leighton (finger)

Related:

NHL on NBCSN: Avs seek to change storyline versus Blues

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”