And Theyre Off: Flyers Open Abbreviated Season Against Bitter Penguins

And Theyre Off: Flyers Open Abbreviated Season Against Bitter Penguins

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The NHL transitioned from lockout to hockey so fast, we’ve hardly
had enough time to cobble together a proper preview of the season to come. Every
year begins with the same simple yes-or-no question though: is the home team
equipped to compete for a championship?

When it comes to the Flyers, the answer usually seems to be Yeah, but...

2012 doesn’t appear to be any different. Philly’s potent
offense is still among the most dangerous
in the league, but head coach Peter
Laviolette must seek a replacement on the top line, plus fill the role of a
puck-moving defenseman. Speaking of the blueliners, the work stoppage was over
for all of a day when we were already dissecting whether or not this team is deep
enough on the back end.
Then there is eccentric Ilya Bryzgalov in net, good
enough to post a 10-2 won-loss last March en route to setting a franchise
record for consecutive shutout minutes, yet still only manages to finish 32nd
in the NHL with a .909 save percentage.

This squad looks like the definition of yeah, but.

And while the Flyers have plenty of concerns on their own
roster, the Atlantic Division is no picnic, either. The New Jersey Devils lost
Zach Parise to free agency over the summer, but were just in the Stanley Cup
Finals, so they should be tough. The New York Rangers met them in the Eastern
Conference Finals, and added a big-name reinforcement in the name of Rick Nash,
instantly making them the favorites in some eyes. Then there are Sidney Crosby’s
Pittsburgh Penguins, perennially the favorite.

That’s where our season begins today, at the Wells Fargo
Center against the “favorite.” Conveniently that’s where the Penguins’ season
ended last April, in the first round of the playoffs as the “favorite.”

You could say there is no love lost between Philly and
Pittsburgh, but that probably only serves to downplay the animosity between the
two at this point. The rivalry reached its boiling point right before the postseason
even got underway with a feisty encounter that nearly culminated with Lavvy
diving into the opposing team’s bench after Pens’ coach Dan Bylsma. A short
time later, the Flyers were scrapping their way to a 4-2 series victory. They
were winning the fights for the puck, and they were winning most of the actual fights,
too.

As fun as it was to watch though, and as much they undoubtedly
despise black and yellow, the Flyers need to put that series behind them to a
certain extent. The Penguins looked distracted by all of the extra-curriculars
a year ago, taking way too many penalties while tumbling into a 3-0 hole. I
would expect them to walk into the enemy’s building with a renewed more focus
today. They’ve been waiting for this opportunity for almost eight months now.

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Something to watch is how everybody holds up on the ice after
the extended time off and/or apart. The speed and quality of the game stands to
be impacted as guys get used to playing together again, or in some cases playing
again, period. However, given these are two clubs that a) didn’t have a ton of
turnover in the offseason and b) are extremely familiar with one another, we
should be in for a treat of a hockey game – and yeah, a bit of brawling as
well.

As for the Flyers’ yeah-buts, how they answer those
questions remains to be seen over the course of the next 48 games. Yet while
championships normally would be on our minds already this time of year, we wouldn’t
want to take for granted the simple fact that the game is back on the ice
today. There will be plenty of time to hash out what this team is made up, but
for one day at least, we’re just going to enjoy the show.

Flyers reveal 2017 Stadium Series jerseys

Flyers reveal 2017 Stadium Series jerseys

Back in black.

The Flyers on Saturday morning revealed their 2017 Stadium Series jerseys for their Feb. 25 outdoor game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field.

With their 50th anniversary sweaters resembling their current away jerseys with gold outlining throughout, the Flyers have gone back to black and orange for the outdoor game.

The jersey is almost all black, with an orange name plate and an orange elbow stripe. Orange is sprinkled throughout the jersey.

In addition to the outdoor game, the Flyers will also wear the jersey against the Penguins on March 15 at the Wells Fargo Center, a Wednesday Night Rivalry game.

Pittsburgh unveiled its Stadium Series jersey back on Nov. 25, an all gold uniform in celebration of its 50th season.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story).