Penguins will go with backup goaltender vs. Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun (92), of the Czech Republic, eyes the puck against the Washington Capitals during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

PITTSBURGH -- The first curveball of Wednesday night’s Flyers-Penguins game has just been thrown by Pens coach Dan Bylsma. He has decided to start backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun rather Marc-Andre Fleury.

There has not been much difference in the numbers so far this season. Fleury has played 12 games with a 2.34 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Vokoun has started six games with a 2.27 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Bylsma said that Fleury has probably gotten a little more work that originally planned, and that he wanted to give Vokoun a start at some point this season against the Flyers, and here we are.

Because, make no mistake: despite the fact that the Penguins lead the NHL Atlantic Division with 22 points and the Flyers are fourth with 15 points, this is still very much Penguins-Flyers, with all of the attendant emotion.

“I think that’s always the case, no matter what,” Pens star Sidney Crosby said. “I would really expect the same thing tonight. We know they’re coming off a big game.”

Asked about the Flyers’ slow start, Crosby said, “They’re just a few wins away from being back in it. They’ve had to deal with injuries and things like that -- I think every team goes through that.

“They’ve got a good team. They’re a better team, probably, than their record shows. And they’re coming off a really good game (a 7-0 win over the Islanders).”

For his part, Bylsma, too, is very much about the rivalry, even cracking on a Pittsburgh television reporter who was wearing an orange tie to the morning skate at Consol Energy Center.

“They have not been on the winning side of things as much as they would have liked, or anticipated,” Bylsma said. “They’ve had some injuries. But I also know they’re coming off a good game, a positive game for them on Long Island, a 7-0 win. They’re looking at this game as a chance to get back on the better side of things, and do it in Pittsburgh.

“We know we’re dealing with Philly. We know the past history. It’s a rivalry game. We know this is a game where they can continue to turn things around. So we’re expecting a Philadelphia team. They’ve got (Claude) Giroux. (Danny Briere) is back and healthy...”

And both teams will continue to use this game as a kind of measuring stick, no matter the early-season records.