Panaccio: 'This is the best 1-6 team I've covered'
It's the game hockey fans of Pennsylvania have been waiting for.
The Flyers (1-6-0) welcome Sidney Crosby and the Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins (5-1-0) to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time this season on Thursday night.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. (CSN), so here are five things you need to know before the Flyers and Penguins renew one of the best rivalries in the NHL:
1) Dynamic duo
If there's one thing the Flyers have learned over the past few seasons when playing the Penguins, it's not to give Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin time to work their magic.
Crosby has eye-popping stats against the Flyers in his career. The Penguins' captain has collected 28 goals, 43 assists and a plus-seven rating in 43 regular-season games against the orange and black.
Now in his ninth NHL season, Crosby is off to an incredible start. No. 87 has an NHL-best 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and has registered at least one point in each of Pittsburgh's first six games.
If Crosby wasn't enough, the Flyers also have to keep an eye on Malkin. In 39 regular-season games against the Flyers, the Russian has scored 21 goals and assisted 34 more.
Malkin didn't score until the Penguins' fourth game of the season, but he is back at a point-per-game pace after earning two goals and three assists in his last four contests.
2) Stepping up
In just two games this season, Tye McGinn has accounted for 30 percent of the Flyers' goals. Sure, the Flyers have just 10 markers in seven games, but McGinn has done much more in his short time with the big club.
McGinn has provided the Flyers with a ton of energy since being called up from the Adirondack Phantoms. The 23-year-old has been throwing his body around, driving the net hard and, most importantly, putting the puck in the net.
With injuries to Vinny Lecavalier (lower body) and Scott Hartnell (upper body), McGinn has also sparked the Flyers' top line. Since McGinn's promotion, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have combined for four assists.
Lecavalier shouldn't be out of the lineup much longer, but Hartnell is still a few weeks away from returning.
If McGinn continues to contribute, it's going to be hard for general manager Paul Holmgren to send the forward back down. It's also worth noting that McGinn has six goals in just 20 career NHL games.
3) Don't worry about Read
Matt Read may not have a point this season, but the 27-year-old has been one of the best forwards for the Flyers in the early going.
Read, who signed a four-year, $14.5 million contract extension this past offseason, has been thrust into a much different role since Craig Berube took over as head coach.
Now skating on a line with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot, Read is being relied on for a more defensive-minded game, mostly playing against the opposing team's top line.
That hasn't stopped Read from generating scoring chances. He has a team-high 23 shots on goal through seven games.
If he continues to fire the puck, the goals will come. You may not see his name on the scoresheet, but that doesn't mean he isn't making an impact.
The Penguins shouldn't be concerned if they go a man down on Thursday night.
The Flyers have not scored a power-play goal in 17 straight chances. On the season, the orange and black have converted just two of their 29 attempts on the man advantage.
In case you were wondering, Pittsburgh has successfully killed off 14 of its 18 penalties through six games.
5) This and that
• The Penguins have scored at least three goals in every game this season. In comparison, the Flyers have failed to score more than two goals in a single game through seven contests.
• Pittsburgh will be without Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) and forwards Matt D'Agostini (lower body), James Neal (upper body) and Beau Bennett (lower body) for Tuesday's game.
• The Flyers went 1-2-1 against the Penguins last season. They were outscored 15-12 in those games.
• Pittsburgh's leading scorer against the Flyers in last season's series was ... defenseman Paul Martin (one goal, five assists). Crosby (one goal, four assists) and Chris Kunitz (three goals, one assist) were both minus-4.
• Voracek netted five goals and assisted one more in four games against the Pens last season. Giroux, who has a 10-game point streak against the Pens, added two markers and three helpers in the same number of contests.