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Stadium Series Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers

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Time to take it outside.

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin share a laugh during practice before the Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers on February 22, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA
Mike Darnay/SB Nation

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (32-22-7; 71 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division, wildcard #2) @ Philadelphia Flyers (28-26-7; 63 points, 6th place Metropolitan Division)

Where: Lincoln Financial Field (aka the home of the Philadelphia Eagles)

When: Umm, good question, from The Weather Channel:

Not the greatest forecast for an outdoor hockey game!

Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m., and word is the NHL and NBC want the game squeezed in tonight, even if it takes significant delays for rain, so we shall see how it goes.

The Flyers Stink

Even their blog admits this:

So, over the last eight games the Flyers have a record of four wins and four losses. During those eights games, they lost to a very bad team (Kings), beat another very bad team (Ducks), lost to a decent team (Penguins), beat a team one point behind them in the standings (Wild), beat a really, really bad team twice by very close margins (Red Wings), got absolutely rocked by the best team in the league (Lightning), and were trounced by a slightly above-average team (Canadiens). If this stretch of games isn’t the epitome of what the Flyers actually are then I don’t what is. The real icing on the cake here is getting utterly destroyed by two teams who are clearly better than them the week before the 2019 NHL trade deadline.

But they have a point — a couple more wins might give false hope of contending for a playoff berth. Philadelphia sits seven points out, which realistically makes climbing multiple teams in about 20 games very, very unlikely. But teams still battle long odds all the time. The Flyers should be selling veterans like Wayne Simmonds for future assets.

And they can’t have nice things

The bloom has been falling off the rose a bit for Carter Hart, who got an early hook in his last two games. Philly rode him hard, probably over-played him, and now they went and broke their shiny new toy. You just hate to see it.

That leaves the recently acquired Cam Talbot and the recently healthy Brian Elliott as the goalies tonight, so perhaps they’ll be doing a rain dance after all.

No time to waste

This is an important game for the Penguins, and coming off a bad 4-0 no-show loss to San Jose featuring more poor special teams play, the power play units are new and different.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patric Hornqvist are the forwards on one group with Justin Schultz and Marcus Pettersson. And then Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, and Nick Bjugstad are with Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin are on another.

Will this work? Can it prevent goals against? We shall see. Talent splits are never permanent for power plays, yet this personnel grouping might emphasize Crosby and Malkin to put more pucks on net, which is never bad. And players like Guenztel and Bjugstad have done well on the power play, getting them with Kessel and Letang might do well for them if it’s needed.

And though Friday’s practice was informal, it looked like even strength line changes might be happening too. Hornqvist might be with Crosby and Guentzel to start the game.

Managing the elements

It seems like there’s almost no buzz among the fans — Pens or Flyers — for this game. As I told Kelly from BSH, it seems like the only point of this game (and the game two years ago at Heinz Field) is “hey the NHL can put it outside with these two teams and sell 60-70,000 tickets for a game, instead of 18,000 inside like normal.”

And, while probably true, it’s still unique and fun — you could see it for the players at practice. The NHL season is a long slog of meetings, treatment, travel, practice, rest, warming up, playing, repeat. This game is something special, something unique, and something different from the rest. A lot of the players’ families are with them and got to skate together on the ice yesterday. It’s outdoors, a throwback to childhood memories.

That said, it’s still an important game for the Pens in a tight playoff race with Columbus and Carolina, where only two of the three teams may have a seat at the dance. Let’s see if mother nature is clear and if they can take care of business.