Game 27Ladies and Gentlemen Would You Please Welcome The Pittsburgh Penguins

Game 27Ladies and Gentlemen Would You Please Welcome The Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season, the very first
game the Flyers played was against their current top rival, the
Pittsburgh Penguins. They helped to open a new arena in western PA,
although not quite the way the home team would have wanted. This year,
we've had to wait more than a quarter of the season to see Jaromir Jagr
and Max Talbot face their former club, which we'll finally get to do
tonight.

That storyline aside, the Pens and Flyers are also deadlocked at the
top of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings,
separated by just one point. Pittsburgh has played and lost two more
games than Philadelphia, and the teams aren't alone at the top. There's a
lot of hockey left to be played, but we get the feeling it's going to
be tight most if not all of the way through to the spring.

The division races are heating up as the schedule gets more
Atlantic-heavy, which should provide for some great theatre as the
winter months kick in. The players come and go, but the rivalry never
seems to change much. The coming and going seems to be the spark that
will fuel some of this season's battles, with Jagr and Talbot taking top
billing.

Their stories are quite different, their Pittsburgh tenures
separated by years, but in the eyes of some Pens fans and media members,
the current most important characteristic Jagr and Talbot share isn't
that they won Cups for Pittsburgh—it's that they signed with the Flyers
this past summer. [Puck Daddy has more]

Jagr hasn't played for the Pens since 2001, having stopped in
Washington and New York before heading to Russia for three seasons. When
news broke that he'd be returning to the NHL, it was assumed he play
for either the Pens or the Red Wings, who were rumored to have interest.
But, like a thief in the night, Paul Holmgren worked a deal with former
Flyer and current Jagr agent Petr Svoboda, bringing Jagr to Philly.
Along with the departure of Talbot to none other than the Flyers he once
battled in a memorable playoff series (memorable for the wrong reasons
if you're from Philly), two playoff heroes had traded in their status as
flightless water fowl for roles with a team known for Flying.

The money, and in Talbot's case, years, that the Flyers gave these
two prodigals helped soften the blow for many Pittsburgh fans. Some said
Talbot was overrated and Jagr might dazzle here and there, but these
weren't currently guys you could pin big hopes on. With both playing at
the very least to the potential they were brought here for, I wonder if
the pill's as easy to swallow today as it was in July.

In truth, it probably is. The Penguins are doing just fine without
them, and there's still plenty of time for any Jagr and Talbot haters to
be proven right. But all indications are that if healthy, these two
will be key contributors to a versatile and dangerous Flyers team that
will contend for the division some thought would certainly belong to the
Penguins or Rangers once Homer pushed ctrl+alt+delete on last season's
roster. No one knew what to expect. It's safe to say that as the puck's
about to drop between the Penguins and Flyers for the first time this
season, fans on both sides wouldn't trade their players for their
counterparts in the other sweaters.

Just the way it should be in a great rivalry.

Quick notes:
As you already know, Sidney Crosby won't play tonight. Hope to the gods
that all is soon well with him and that we're not seeing the beginning
of concussion symptom recurrence so soon after his return. 

Also, HBO is shooting at tonight's game, gathering footage for the first episode of 24/7.

Ilya Bryzgalov will get his second start in as many nights, facing
Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby's a well known Flyers assassin, and his
bullet's been dodged for the night, but the Flower's numbers (20-10 in
33 career appearances) against Philly aren't anything to shrug off… 

Quite possibly my favorite hockey pump-up song:

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).