NHL on NBCSN: Hungry Flyers set sights on rival Penguins

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

If their 6-5 overtime victory on Saturday gave the Philadelphia Flyers reason to hope, then Chicago’s decisive 4-0 win over them last night was a bucket of cold water. The Flyers’ season is obviously far from over just because they’ve gotten off to a 1-3-2 start, but they have to work hard to right this ship and that task won’t get any easier tonight when they battle their fierce rivals in Pittsburgh.

“We got to stick together when it’s tough time and we just got to battle through it. We’ve done it before,” Claude Giroux said after the game, per the Flyers’ website.

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He’s right of course. The Flyers began the 2013-14 campaign with a 1-7-0 run and still managed to make the playoffs. However, the reason they slumped out of the gate last season was primarily because they couldn’t seem to click offensively. Although they were shutout last night, the Flyers’ main problem this season has been its defense.

That’s not an area you can afford to be deficient in when you’re playing against Pittsburgh. For years the Penguins have been known as one of the league’s best offensive teams and nothing has changed this season.

Sidney Crosby is playing as good as ever with four goals and nine points in just four games. Evgeni Malkin isn’t far behind with two goals and five assists. Even newcomer Patric Hornqvist, who never recorded more than 53 points in a single season with the Nashville Predators, has stepped up with four goals and eight points.

For any other squad, Pittsburgh would be one of the worst teams to face under these circumstances, but this might actually be just what the doctor ordered for Philadelphia. The Flyers are typically capable of stepping up when facing their Pennsylvania rival. They were 4-1-0 against Pittsburgh last season.

Philadelphia might also finally get defenseman Braydon Coburn after he missed his fifth straight game on Tuesday despite taking part in the pregame warmups. The Flyers could certainly use any help they can get on the blueline.

Regardless of the outcome, this promises to be a fun game. For forward Steve Downie, it’s his first chance to experience the rivalry from Pittsburgh’s perspective after his two stints with Philadelphia and this will also be new Penguins head coach Mike Johnston’s first contest against the Flyers.

““I’m excited,” Johnston told the Penguins’ website. “When you look at an 82-game schedule some games just blend into the other games and some games jump right out at you. Heading into the season and looking at games last year when Philly and Pittsburgh played, the intensity and emotion, both in the building and on the ice, I think it adds to the game.”