This was supposed to be the easy game — well, the easiest one, anyway — in an awfully challenging four-game stretch for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They entered it with a 4-3 loss to Boston, the Presidents’ Trophy winner, at PPG Paints Arena Saturday.
Tuesday, they will venture to New Jersey, where the Devils sit comfortably in second place in the Metropolitan Division. Minnesota, which has surged into first place in the Central Division, will come here Thursday.
If the Penguins happen to hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot — something they do not now — by the end of the Wild game, their prospects for being in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 17th consecutive year will be fairly promising.
If not, they’ll have to hope that they can squeeze enough points out of season-ending games against Detroit, Chicago and Columbus to make up whatever deficit they might face.
Clearly, the Penguins could use a two-point infusion when they face Philadelphia — the only non-playoff qualifier in their immediate future — today at 6:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.
Getting a victory, though, won’t be as easy as the Flyers’ 29-33-13 record suggests, however.
Before its 6-3 loss to Buffalo at home Saturday — a victory that hoisted the Sabres to within three points of the Penguins — the Flyers had been on a 5-0-2 roll that included beating Minnesota, Florida and Buffalo.
Although the Pittsburgh Penguins’ rivalry with Philadelphia, the most enduring and intense in franchise history, appears to have cooled a bit in recent years, it’s reasonable to assume that the Flyers would take particular pleasure in denying the Penguins a point or two to help keep them out of the playoffs.
Philadelphia already is looking forward to next season — against the Sabres, for example, it voluntarily went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in order to evaluate personnel — but spoiling the Penguins’ current one surely would be relished by much of its fan base.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected Philadelphia Flyers Lines
Penguins power play: 57 for 267, 21.3%, 15th in NHL
Penguins penalty-kill: 52 for 240, 78.3%, 18th in NHL
Flyers power play: 33 for 205, 16.1%, 31st in NHL
Flyers penalty-kill: 54 for 217, 75.1, 25th in NHL
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
The Penguins will be trying to sweep the three-game season series from the Flyers. The last time they swept the season series was 2017-18, when they went 4-0.
Kris Letang, who will be playing in his 1,000th NHL game, has scored seven of his 10 goals this season at PPG Paints Arena. He also has at least one point in eight of his past nine games against Philadelphia.
Bryan Rust will play in his 500th NHL game. His two-goal game against Boston Saturday was the first time he has scored more than one in 2022-23.
The Penguins are 7-1-1 in their past nine home games against Philadelphia.
Sidney Crosby has a goal in seven of his past eight games against the Flyers. He also has 122 career points against Philadelphia, second-most of any player in NHL history; Mario Lemieux had 124.
Jake Guentzel has a four-goal goal-scoring streak and has scored 11 times in the past 14 games.
The Flyers are 2-10-1 in the second game when playing on consecutive days.
Philadelphia center Morgan Frost has a three-game points streak, with four goals and an assist during that span.
The Flyers are just 10-22 in games decided by three or more goals.
Philadelphia has blocked 1,302 shots, third-most in the NHL.
The Flyers have determined that center Sean Couturier, who is recovering from back surgery and has not played since last season, will not return until 2023-24. Couturier is one of the better two-way forwards in the league.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 the X