Key Observations Heading Into Game 5 Between the Penguins and Flyers

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By: Andy Hughes (@PensNation_Andy)

It’s pretty fitting that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will be featured on the NBC Sports Network’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” tonight. After all, this match up is one of the biggest rivalries in the sport. However, it will have a bit of a different taste tonight due to several changes on both sides. The Penguins obviously brought in Jim Rutherford, Rick Tocchet, Gary Agnew and Mike Johnston along with several new players. Steve Downie, who is one of those new players, previously played with the Flyers and is expected to be one of the difference makers in games against Pittsburgh’s hated rival. In the past few years, the Flyers have bullied the Penguins and caused them to get off their game. The Penguins lost all three games against the Flyers last season at CONSOL Energy Center and hope to improve their bad record against them at home tonight. Emotions play a big part in these games and that’s where Downie comes into play. After basically challenging the entire New York Islanders bench on Saturday night, he has become a fan favorite already. He makes sure the opponent knows he’s out there and will do whatever it takes to defend star players such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Downie is a player this team has lacked since Matt Cooke left town and should help the Penguins.

The Flyers will look much different tonight as well. In addition to some player changes, the Flyers come into this game as one of the least penalized teams in the league, which just doesn’t sound right.  Scott Hartnell, who gave the Penguins fits in the past several years, is no longer there. He was traded to Columbus in the offseason in exchange for R.J. Umberger. It’s going to be very strange not seeing him in a Flyers jersey tonight. Philadelphia will also be without one of their top defensemen in Kimmo Timonen because of blood clots. It is unknown if he will ever be able to play hockey ever again, unfortunately. Defenseman Braydon Coburn and center Vincent Lecavalier are also injured with lower-body injuries. As a result of Lecavalier’s injury, newcomer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will get an opportunity to play in the top-six. Bellemare was an intriguing international free agent signing by the Flyers, but has yet to record a point in the first six games.

The Flyers are coming off a terrible shutout last night against the Chicago Blackhawks that dropped their season record to 1-3-2. The Penguins (3-1) will play three games in the next four nights and will return to the ice tonight following an impressive win over the Islanders on Saturday night. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for Pittsburgh while the Flyers will most likely start Ray Emery since Steve Mason was in goal last night against Chicago. The Penguins will wear their new third jerseys for the first time tonight.

Scott Harrington and Andrew Ebbett were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this morning, but will not play. Robert Bortuzzo is close to returning, but will not tonight, according to Johnston.

Crosby, who will play with Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist once again tonight, is always a player to watch against Philadelphia. Flyers fans always bash Crosby and many people got a kick out of Crosby’s Halloween costume this year, going as Rocky Balboa. Whether he meant to troll Philadelphia or not, he has given them fits on the ice in his career. In 48 games against Philadelphia, Crosby has notched 30 goals and 45 assists. 75 points in 48 games? Not too shabby. Hornqvist, who is off to a tremendous start to his Penguins career, is among the league leaders in shots on goal with 28 through four games. Based on what we’ve seen from that line in the past four games, expect that number to increase again tonight.