Flyers (38-25-12) at Penguins (42-27-6)
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena.
BROADCAST & STREAMING: NBCSP, NBCSports.com/live, 93.3 FM
KEY PLAYERS: The Flyers can move into a virtual second-place tie with the Penguins with a regulation win. Pittsburgh is in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of Columbus.
With a regulation loss, the Flyers’ hold on a playoff spot will become more tenuous.
The races are that tight.
The Flyers, currently in the top wild-card spot, are two points behind second-place Pittsburgh in the Metro. But they are just two points ahead of New Jersey and five points ahead of Florida in the wild-card hunt. Florida has two games in hand.
The Flyers are 0-2-1 against the Penguins this season, and they will use rookie goalie Alex Lyon (4-2-1, 2.49 GAA, .914 save percentage). Pittsburgh is expected to go with Matt Murray, who recently returned from a concussion. Murray is 23-14-3 with a 2.86 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
Surprising stat: The Penguins are just 19th in the NHL in goals allowed per game (3.03), while the Flyers, despite their share of injured goaltenders, are 14th (2.88).
Both teams have been guilty of surrendering an inordinate amount of odd-man rushes.
MVP candidate Claude Giroux (26 goals, 64 assists) — who is tied for first in the NHL in assists, fifth in points (90), and fourth in faceoff percentage (58.3 percent) — leads the Flyers and is coming off consecutive three-assist games.
He gets lots of help from Jake Voracek (80 points, 61 assists), Sean Couturier (30 goals, 70 points, plus-27), and the sizzling Travis Konecny, who has 16 of his 22 goals in the last 29 games.
Pittsburgh has three dominating forwards: MVP candidate Evgeni Malkin (91 points, 41 goals), Phil Kessel (83 points, 30 goals), and Flyers-killer Sidney Crosby (81 points, 25 goals).
Couturier, Giroux and Voracek are a combined plus-52. Malkin, Kessel, and Crosby are a combined plus-14. Crosby and Kessel are “minus” players.
THINGS TO KNOW: The Flyers’ much-maligned penalty kill is 10 for 10 over its last five games……Pittsburgh’s PK has been awful since it traded defenseman Ian Cole. It has killed just 67.6 percent of its penalties in March…..The Pens are 27-8-2 at home, while the Flyers are 19-12-6 on the road….The Flyers are starting a pivotal three-game road trip that will also have stops in Dallas and Denver…..Pittsburgh has the league’s No. 1 PP, clicking at 26 percent. The Flyers’ PP is 16th (20.2 percent)…In the last seven periods (plus an OT), the Penguins have outscored the Flyers, 14-4…..Ivan Provorov, the usually solid Flyers defenseman, will be trying to rebound from a struggling performance against the Rangers.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Flyers are 0-2-1 vs. the Penguins this season, allowing five goals in each loss. The Flyers lead the all-time series, 153-92-30-9.
UPCOMING FLYERS GAMES:
Tuesday: 8:30 p.m. at Dallas
Wednesday: 10 p.m. at Colorado
April 1: 12:30 p.m. vs. Boston.