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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Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

ap-sixers-will-smith.jpg
AP

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in I Am Legend, and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

If healthy, Ryan Howard is expected to start all three games in the Phillies' final series of the season Sept. 2-4 at home against the Mets.

He might also start the entire Braves series.

The Phillies' final six games are all against right-handed starting pitchers: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Josh Collmenter in Atlanta; Robert Gsellman, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard with the Mets. That could mean six starts for Howard before his time with the Phillies expires.

Howard's batting average has been below .200 for practically the entire season, but he's been much better since the All-Star break, hitting .259/.325/.598 with 11 homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs in 123 plate appearances (see game notes). He went 0 for 6 in his last two starts but homered in each of his two previous starts to reach 23 for the third year in a row.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup Tuesday against Teheran:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Matt Kemp is out of the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jace Peterson, 2B
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Mallex Smith, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

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