NHL on NBC: Pens host Flyers in possible playoff preview

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign today when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers at CONSOL Energy Center at 3:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can watch the game online.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a curious position this afternoon when they host the Philadelphia Flyers because, depending on the outcome, they can have a hand in helping determine who they’ll play in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Penguins pull off a win, it’s possible they could face the Flyers in the opening round of the postseason. Working against them is how they’ve handled the Flyers this season. Philly is 3-1-0 against Pittsburgh this season and after sweeping a home-and-home set last month, many believe the Flyers are in the Penguins’ heads.

It’s a double-edged sword for the Penguins. If Philly moves to 4-1-0 against them this season, the Flyers will face the New York Rangers in the first round leaving the Pens to either deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets or Detroit Red Wings in the postseason. With Nathan Horton out of action for the next six weeks for the Jackets, the Pens may have their fingers crossed they can deal with them.

The Pens have won two in a row, both via shootout, so they’ve got that going for them. Jussi Jokinen has points in three straight and has the shootout winner in the last two games. Maybe Steve Mason and Ray Emery have done a little studying to prepare.

The Flyers, meanwhile, head into the game coming off a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sean Couturier has goals in back-to-back games and instead of his usual job of trying to frustrate Evgeni Malkin (out with a foot injury), he may get to step up another level and shadow Sidney Crosby.

While that’s the match-up to watch there, seeing how the suddenly healthy Penguins defense tries to get a handle on Claude Giroux is worth keeping an eye on.