Flyers-Penguins: The NHLs Hottest Team Versus Its Most Rested

Flyers-Penguins: The NHLs Hottest Team Versus Its Most Rested

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The NCAA Tournament has been a welcome distraction from the
misery that is the pro sports landscape in Philadelphia, and in particular the
Flyers who have been idle the entire time. Tonight Orange & Black attempts
to reel us back in as the club renews its intense rivalry with the Pittsburgh
Penguins.

Amazingly enough, the time off did not damage the Bullies’
playoff chances significantly more than they had already managed to do
themselves. The Flyers were five points back of the eighth seed after losing to
the Tampa Bay Lightning last Monday, and they remain five points back entering
the matchup with the Pens. Meanwhile, the games played column finally evened
itself out, to the point where most of the Eastern Conference have actually
passed Philly.

As bad as this season has been, the Flyers are still in
control of their own destiny. It’s only a question of whether they can
capitalize.

They begin to form their answer in Pittsburgh against the
hottest team on ice. The Penguins have yet to lose in the month of March,
riding an 11-game winning streak to a comfortable 12-point lead in the Atlantic
Division and first place in the East. They have also tied the Chicago
Blackhawks for the most wins in the NHL with 24, and are three points removed
from claiming ownership of the best record in the league.

The Pens are getting the job done on both ends. They are
averaging four goals per game during the streak, and have not allowed more than
two in a tilt over the last seven. What’s more, they’ve been without Evgeni
Malkin for two weeks now as the 2011-12 MVP takes care of a shoulder injury.
High-scoring defenseman Kris Letang has recently become unavailable as well.

Speaking of injuries, Tim Panaccio reports Danny Briere will
not be in uniform for the Flyers. Briere suffered an upper-body injury in practice
last week, and is expected to be replaced by Harry Zolnierczyk, which is about
as detailed as the news gets. It hasn’t been a productive season for Danny to
say the least, but you would rather have him in the lineup than not.

Of course, a bunch of this stuff –injuries, trends, the
standings – flies right out the window whenever these two teams square off, as
tends to happen with any good rivalry. Little has been predictable about their
recent encounters, other than the action typically is going to get wild.

In their last meeting, the Flyers stormed out to a 4-1 lead,
looking absolutely dominant in every phase of the game. The Penguins turned the
tables on them in the second period, and had the score knotted up before
heading back into the dressing room. A quick goal in the third period proved to
be enough, lifting Pittsburgh to a huge comeback victory, and the third W of
their current streak. It also gave them a 2-1 series lead for the season.

There is one statistic that has held up through this rivalry
so far however, that being Philly’s record at CONSOL Energy Center. Including
playoffs, the Flyers are 8-2 in the Penguins’ building.

The Flyers have fresh legs, but what they really need is a
fresh outlook moving forward. The season is not quite lost yet like many
expected it would be coming out of the five-day break, and earning two points
in Pittsburgh could make a statement.

With La Salle still going strong, we expect there will be a
lot of flipping channels in the Delaware Valley on Sunday night. Flyers-Pens
have been appointment viewing though, so don’t miss it.

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.