Flyers, Penguins ready for battle one more time

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby are set to mix it up for the third this season. The Flyers are 9-4-1 vs. their cross-state rivals since 2009-10.

If you want to say the Rangers own the Flyers — and after Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to New York made it 10 of the last 11 — then say it. But the Flyers should like their chances of getting back to that elusive .500 mark when the hated Penguins come to town Thursday night.

They have more than held their own vs. Pittsburgh. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, the Orange and Black have gone 9-4-1 against their cross-state rivals, including a split this season.

In the season opener, early first-period goals by Tyler Kennedy and James Neal set the stage for Pittsbugh’s 3-1 win. Then, after spotting the Pens two quick goals in the rematch two weeks ago, the Flyers rallied for a 6-5 win. Jake Voracek banked the game-winner off goalie Tomas Vokoun with 1:31 remaining.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma chose to go with his backup goaltender in that one. The Flyers will likely go with Ilya Bryzgalov, who has started 22 of the Flyers’ 24 games, in this one.

Less certain is the status of defenseman Niklas Grossmann. He had to leave after the first period Tuesday with a groin injury. If he can’t go, Kurtis Foster would step in, unless Andrej Meszaros (dislocated shoulder) is ready to return. The Penguins lead the Atlantic Division by five points over the Devils. The Flyers (11-12-1) stand fourth in the Atlantic and have fallen to ninth in the Eastern Conference.

“Pittsburgh is ahead of us and they have games in hand,” said Scott Hartnell. “From here on every game will seem more and more important. But it seems like it’s been playoff hockey since Game 15.”

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