NHL on NBC: Flyers get chance to push Penguins towards disaster

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NBC will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center at 12:30 p.m. ET today. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

When the Penguins fired GM Ray Shero and, eventually, head coach Dan Bylsma over the summer, it was a reaction to Pittsburgh’s disappointing playoff showings since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009. Initially the Penguins flourished under Jim Rutherford and Mike Johnston’s watch, but they’ve faded since jumping to a 22-6-4 start and incredibly they might miss the playoffs entirely. As if set up to potentially pour more salt on the wound, the Philadelphia Flyers might play a key role in ruining Pittsburgh’s season.

After all this is the fourth time the Penguins have played the Flyers this season and Pittsburgh has lost all three of the previous meetings. Most recently the Flyers earned a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

“We get excited and we play well against the Penguins,” Flyers coach Craig Berube told CSN Philly. “It’s one of those teams that bring out the best in us.”

Pittsburgh followed that up with a 5-3 loss to Columbus on Saturday to drop to 42-25-11 this season. With four games remaining, the Penguins’ hold on a playoff berth has been reduced to three points. Odds are Pittsburgh will still make the playoffs, but what once seemed like a sure thing is now in question. If Pittsburgh loses this afternoon, then the pressure on the squad could intensify.

The good news for Pittsburgh is that it will probably get Evgeni Malkin back from an undisclosed injury today, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At the same time, the Penguins blueline remains battered at a time when defensive issues are a particular concern. Pittsburgh has allowed its opponent to rally back from a 2-0 deficit in three of its last six games.

From a standings perspective this game means little to Philadelphia. While the Penguins’ struggles have cast doubt on their playoff chances, it’s been a while since the Flyers were even serious contenders in the race for a postseason spot. In fact, if you want to go by Sports Club Stats, the last time the Flyers had more than a 20% chance of making the playoffs was on Dec. 23 after beating Minnesota.

Still, the chance to play in the spoiler role should be particularly motivating for the Flyers given the opponent.