Atlantic Beast-Off: White Hot Penguins at the Well Today

Atlantic Beast-Off: White Hot Penguins at the Well Today

A few important storylines converge at the Wells Fargo Center this afternoon, where the Flyers will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 12:30 matinee airing on NBC. These are two of the hottest teams in the league. Pittsburgh is unmistakably THE hottest, winning their last 11 games and getting their best player back in the process. 
If the season ended today, these two teams would face off in a first-round playoff battle. The Pens' surge has them within striking distance of the East-leading Rangers. If they leave Philadelphia with two points today, they'll own a share of first place pending New York's outcome against the Devils tomorrow night. 
But it's not as though the Pens have lacked motivation lately. The Flyers will have their hands full today, and they did not get healthier overnight. 
Yesterday's key stories included two more Flyers being struck down by the injury gods and the team getting off to another sluggish start in an afternoon game, both of which they'll have to overcome if they want to win today. Andreas Lilja and Max Talbot will not play, meaning three defense regulars (Mesz, Kubina, Lilja—in addition to Pronger) won't be available. 
Brandon Manning will return to fill the void on D, and Jody Shelley will take shifts with the fourth line. However, there will likely be some forwards taking additional shifts and some juggling. Manning was solid in his first cup of coffee, but Shelley is no substitute for Talbot in a game like this. The fourth line has given some valuable shifts at both ends of the ice, and Talbot's a gamer who will be missed in this showdown with his former club. 
Ilya Bryzgalov will start again today with two big points on the line. At the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been outstanding. 
The Pens' streak isn't just eating cupcakes, which they've certainly done along the way. Their last three wins were all by a 5-2 margin, coming against the Bruins, Rangers, and Devils over the past week. That's all. 
Evgeni Malkin leads the league in scoring, and Sidney Crosby has returned to a team scoring at the league's second-best pace, just slightly below the Flyers' top mark. In two games back from another concussion situation, Crosby has five points, all assists. With the rear guard picked apart by injuries, it's fairly likely Sid at least continues his point streak. When doesn't he in Philly?
On special teams, the Pittsburgh power play is 6th best, and no one is killing penalties better on the season. 
But, they're going to lose at some point between now and the end of the season. Why not today in Philly?

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn signs 2-year deal with Coyotes

Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn signs 2-year deal with Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have signed former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn to a two-year contract.

The 26-year-old defenseman had four goals and 12 assists in 72 games with the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings last season. Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier were traded by the Flyers to the Kings last January in exchange for Jordan Weal and a third-round draft pick in last month's entry draft.

In his career, Schenn has 28 goals and 100 assists in 566 games with the Kings, Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs. In three-plus seasons with the Flyers, Schenn scored 12 goals and added 30 assists.

Schenn was the first-round draft pick - fifth selection overall - by the Maple Leafs in 2008.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka called Schenn "a good, young defenseman" who will be "a solid addition" to the Arizona blue line.

- contributed to this story.

Cameron Rupp leaves game vs. Pirates after getting hit in head by pitch

Associated Press

Cameron Rupp leaves game vs. Pirates after getting hit in head by pitch

Updated - 5:55 p.m.

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp left the game in the third inning after being struck on the left ear flap of his batting helmet by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow.

Rupp walked off the field under his own power and backup catcher Carlos Ruiz pinch ran for him and stayed in the game to catch starter Aaron Nola.

The Phillies later announced Rupp was removed from the game as a precaution and that he showed no symptoms of a concussion.

Less than 24 hours before, Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco was hit in the wrist by a pitch thrown by Pirates starter Gerrit Cole in Friday's 4-0 victory at PNC Park. Franco left the game and did not start on Saturday afternoon. He's listed as day to day (see story).

In the first inning on Saturday, Rupp hit into an inning-ending ground out. He is hitting .276 with 10 home runs in 63 games.