PITTSBURGH – After a week of off-the-ice drama, the Flyers are excited to play a game, especially against their bitter rivals from Pittsburgh.
The teams will meet Saturday at 7 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.
This is just the Flyers’ second game since general manager Ron Hextall was fired, and their first game since assistant GM Chris Pryor and assistant coach Gord Murphy were dismissed.
The Flyers are in a stretch when they play just twice in 11 nights.
“It’s nice to have a game to prepare for tonight, and have a singular and sole focus on that alone,” coach Dave Hakstol said after Saturday’s morning skate.
“It’s tough to see that stuff going on,” right winger Travis Konecny said of the week’s upheaval, “but inside our locker room, it’s our own little bonding in here and we just stick together and we know what our job is. Upper management is going to keep taking care of everything else, so we just have to keep doing our job and keep working hard here. We don’t try to focus on that (other) stuff.”
This is the first game between the Flyers and Pittsburgh since the Penguins won last season’s first-round playoff series, four games to two. The Flyers lost all four regular-season meetings against the Penguins last season.
This week’s off-ice developments haven’t changed the bitterness of the rivalry, the players said.
“When you walk in this building, it never gets old. It’s going to be an intense game; it’s going to be a fun game to be a part of,” said captain Claude Giroux, who has 45 points in 44 career games against the Penguins. “The guys are ready to go. We haven’t played for a while, so the first period is going to be very important for us.”
Giroux said when he wakes up from an afternoon nap Saturday, “and you know you’re coming here, there’s just another feeling to it.”
“Nothing changes,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said when asked if the off-ice drama had any effect on the preparation for Saturday’s game. “…We have to focus on being a better hockey team out on the ice.”
The Flyers, who blew a late 3-1 lead and dropped a 4-3 decision to Ottawa on Tuesday, have lost six of their last seven and have fallen to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division standings.
Anthony Stolarz (0-1), who has a 3.40 goals-against average and .898 save percentage in two games this season, will make his first career appearance against the Penguins. He will be opposed by Casey DeSmith, who is 6-3-3 with a 2.41 GAA and .924 save percentage. DeSmith, 27, has never faced the Flyers.
Stolarz will be the sixth different goalie to face the Penguins in the teams’ last six meetings. The others: Alex Lyon, Petr Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliott, and Steve Mason.