The Pittsburgh Penguins are 5-1, sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, and averaging nearly four goals a game.
The last-place Flyers are 1-6, averaging 1.4 goals per game, and have lost three in a row.
Pay no attention to the above info, said Dan Bylsma, the Penguins’ highly successful coach.
When these teams meet, Bylsma said, the records are irrelevant.
In a roundabout way, Flyers captain Claude Giroux said the same thing about Thursday's meeting at the Wells Fargo Center.
"Tonight’s gonna be a game to bring the fans back on our side and show them that we’re a good team and can win games," Giroux, who is still looking for his first goal, told reporters after the morning skate.
After tonight, the Flyers have six days between games. They want to have some positive reinforcement during their "break." Maybe that's why Giroux views tonight's game as a "turning point."
Bylsma recalled an anecdote about the rivalry.
“I still vividly remember the fans instructing me as I left the ice after my first win against Montreal,” Bylsma said after the Penguins’ practice Wednesday. One fan, he added, told him, ‘You haven’t done anything until you’ve beaten Philadelphia.’ So there’s certainly another level to this rivalry. And regardless of the situations of the teams, regardless of the records, it’s always got that flavor to it and will have it (Thursday).”
High-scoring, penalty-filled games are not uncommon when these teams square off.
Bylsma said new players on this year’s team will “soon enough feel the rivalry. If they don’t know, they’ll find out in warm-ups because the fans are ‘welcoming.’ ”
The Flyers have just two points, equaling their worst seven-game start in franchise history.
“I am surprised to see them with the record they have now, and I don’t in any way, shape or form, approach their team like the record says they are,” Bylsma said. “I look at what they are and what they should be able to do.”
Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL with 12 points, downplayed the Flyers’ slow start. “That happens in hockey,” he said. “They’ve probably played some good games, and most of the games I’ve seen have been one-goal games. I mean, it’s tough to win and the margin for error is pretty small. Obviously with the coaching change, I’m sure that’s part of the process for them. There’s still a lot of hockey left.”
Crosby has 28 career goals against the Flyers, the most he has scored against any team.
“It’s always an intense game there, so you have to make sure you’re ready,” he said.
Harry Z returns. Former Flyers forward Harrry Zolnierczyk returns to face his ex-team Thursday. He was recalled from the AHL and played on the Penguins’ third line Tuesday.
“Obviously there’s a big rivalry between both of our teams, and I’ll be excited to be out there,” he said. “….There’s some bad blood between these teams.”
Added the speedy Zolnierczyk: “It’ll be interesting, for sure. It’s usually a good atmosphere in Philly, and I’m excited to have a chance to play against them and get the win.”
Berube’s plea: The Flyers have been outscored by a 10-2 third-period margin. They had two third-period defensive breakdowns Tuesday and it led to a pair of Vancouver goals in its 3-2 comeback victory.
“We need to put 60 minutes together,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We’ve put ourselves in position to win games. Going into the third period, I find it’s a little bit of letdown and we end up losing them.”
Breakaways. Flyers defenseman Nick Grossmann, who is tied for sixth in the NHL with 18 blocked shots, suffered what he called a “stinger” Tuesday but is expected to play Thursday…..The Flyers have not scored in their last 17 power plays….Steve Mason will start in goal for the Flyers, who will dress Kris Newbury over Jay Rosehill....The Penguins won three of four games against the Flyers last season.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.