Panaccio: 'This is the best 1-6 team I've covered'
The Flyers and Penguins will meet for the first time this season on Thursday night. (USA Today Images)
Records don’t mean much when two bitter rivals meet each other on the ice.
The Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins are opposites right now. The Flyers are 1-6. Pittsburgh is 5-1.
If past history repeats, when these two clubs meet Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center, it will seem as though both are comparable to each other.
This rivalry brings out both the best and worst from each club because of the Flyers' dominance over the Pens in Pittsburgh during the regular season and playoffs in recent years, and the Penguins' success here in Philadelphia, as well.
Now the danger for coach Craig Berube is that he is trying to get his club to play a disciplined style within its game plan. Games against Pittsburgh often break down into shinny hockey and undisciplined penalties.
“Yeah, it gets pretty emotional when you play Pittsburgh,” Berube said. “Obviously, they get fired up. We get fired up. We’re looking for some good emotion, but some controlled emotion.
“I think it’s important to have emotion in the game and that we’re physical. But that it’s controlled. We got to do a good job on [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin. They are dangerous players and we need to neutralize them as best as we can.”
Crosby’s 12 points led the NHL in scoring as of Wednesday night. He has a point in each of his six games, matching his career best as a rookie in 2005-06.
His linemates are familiar: Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.
Young Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson has played head-to-head on Crosby in the playoffs and regular season and figures to draw him again tonight with partner Kimmo Timonen.
“You really got to be on your toes all the time,” Gustafsson said of Crosby. “He is a tremendous player. He’s the whole package. Sees the ice, shoots the puck. It’s hard work both ways. You got to be real alert, try to read the play and be a step ahead of him.”
Gustafsson said he can’t wait to get on the ice.
“That’s a huge motivation for me,” he said. “I thrive going against other team’s best players. It is a lot of fun. It’s a measuring stick for yourself to see if you handle it. I am real excited about it.”
Nick Grossmann and Braydon Coburn will likely face Malkin’s line of Jussi Jokinen and Chuck Kobesaw.
The Penguins have two significant injuries and will be without offensive defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) and forward James Neal (upper body). Neither injury has been disclosed.