Flyers-Penguins: This Is Why We Watch

Flyers-Penguins: This Is Why We Watch

The simplest way I can think of to put this rivalry in
perspective is this: the standings do not matter one bit today. They will again tomorrow,
especially should the Flyers falter, but at this moment all anybody really needs
to be concerned with is getting geared up for one intense showdown.

Flyers versus Penguins is the premier matchup in the NHL right now, and not just in Philadelphia
or Pittsburgh, but anywhere. It’s the night of the week you look forward to, have
to plan your schedule around, because you know these teams are gonna deliver the
goods. Any given meeting between the two could turn into a classic right before
your eyes.

Just like their last tilt on February 20, a 6-5 slugfest
that could be considered the early favorite for NHL game of the year. That battle
epitomized everything this tug-of-war has been about over the last year:
fast-paced, end-to-end action; relentless physicality fostered by distaste for the
opponent; high drama amid a playoff atmosphere from the moment the puck drops until
the final horn sounds.

A heavyweight fight that pits two of the most highly-skilled
teams in their sport against one another, representing fan bases who absolutely
detest each other.

Is your heart racing yet?

Philly has been getting the better of things lately,
especially since the rivalry turned molten last season. The Bullies of course were
responsible for the Pens’ first-round playoff exit this past April, while going
9-4-1 in regular season encounters dating back to 2010-’11.

But as Tim Pinaccio writes this morning, the enemy might be
getting a little too cozy in the Flyers’ building. Under head coach Dan Bylsma,
the Penguins are 8-2-1 at the Wells Fargo Center, which provides the backdrop
for tonight’s clash.

No surprise, Ilya Bryzgalov is in net tonight for the Orange
& Black. Billy hasn’t exactly looked like an all-world goaltender against
the Penguins during the past two seasons – though to be fair, few people do. Bylsma
won’t make the same mistake twice in Pitt’s crease, opting to go with Marc-Andre Fleury over the backup this time around. Tomas Vokoun flopped around like
a fish out of water for most of last month’s 6-5 loss.

On the injury front, the Flyers might be receiving
reinforcements. It sounds like Matt Read will be making his return to the ice several
weeks earlier than anticipated. Nicklas Grossmann on the other hand was lost to
a lower-body injury in New York on Tuesday, and would be replaced in the lineup
by Kurtis Foster if he can’t go.

The contest is scheduled to begin at 7:00, with the standard
two points on the line, but one thing you definitely don’t have to worry about
is either side mailing it in or just going through the motions. There’s no need
for any extra motivation.

We're fairly certain both clubs would want to beat the hell out of the other tonight, whether the Stanley Cup was hanging in the balance, or there was nothing else at stake at all.

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Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

On Wednesday, the Sixers traded Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks in exchange for Tiago Splitter and a 2017 second-round pick, as well as the option to swap 2017 second-round selections (see story).

"I want to thank Ersan Ilyasova for his positive contributions to this organization both on and off the basketball court," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement. "Ersan is a true professional whose daily examples of hard work, focus and consistency have helped facilitate the ongoing growth of our program and culture."

The Sixers took to Instagram to express their appreciation for Ilyasova’s leadership. Ilyasova quickly embraced the role of a veteran go-to when he was traded to the Sixers in early November. Both posts below exemplify his team-first mentality.

✊🏼 A true Pro @ersanilyasova7

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Thanks for being a great teammate @ersanilyasova7. Wishing you the best in ATL

A post shared by Rob Covington (@atf_33) on

Best of NHL: Rickard Rakell, Ducks snap Bruins' win streak at 4

Best of NHL: Rickard Rakell, Ducks snap Bruins' win streak at 4

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rickard Rakell broke a tie with his second goal with 2:34 to play, and the Anaheim Ducks snapped Boston's four-game winning streak under new coach Bruce Cassidy with a 5-3 victory over the Bruins on Wednesday night.

Rakell also scored in the second period for the Ducks and has 24 goals in his outstanding season. Ondrej Kase, Josh Manson and Andrew Cogliano also scored for Anaheim, and Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves in his first victory since Jan. 23.

Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal in the third period for the Bruins, who hadn't lost since Cassidy replaced Claude Julien on Feb. 7. Defensemen Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara scored early goals, and Tuukka Rask stopped 20 shots.

Anaheim beat Boston for the seventh straight time (see full recap).

Rare goal from Russell lifts Oilers over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Russell's goal with 7:58 left was his first in more than a year and lifted the Edmonton Oilers over Florida 4-3 on Wednesday night to snap the Panthers' five-game winning streak.

Russell's goal was his first since Feb. 11, 2016, when he played for Calgary. He went goalless in his first 48 games with the Oilers.

Fellow defenseman Oscar Klefbom also scored for Edmonton, as did forwards Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Connor McDavid, who came into the night leading the NHL scoring race, had an assist on Russell's goal.

Aleksander Barkov, Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida. Keith Yandle had two assists for the Panthers, giving him 400 points for his career.

Cam Talbot stopped 31 shots for the Oilers, who have won their last eight games at Florida -- last losing on the Panthers' ice in 2002. James Reimer made 31 saves for the Panthers, who just completed a 5-0-0 road trip (see full recap).