Revenge Game or More of the Same?


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faceoff, originally uploaded by empty_netters.

After losing six straight to start the season, the Flyers found themselves facing back-to-back games against the Devils, a team that always seems to have their number. Things looked bleak, and the prospect of eight straight winless efforts loomed large. But rather than getting knocked around, the Flyers stepped up their game and took both games, as well as the next two against Atlanta and the Islanders.

Since that time, the Flyers have lost three of four, dealt for defensive help, and shuffled lines and assignments furiously. In short, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this team right now, and two major tests looming on the schedule. Tonight in Pittsburgh, the Flyers will play perhaps their biggest game of the season to date. The Penguins are coming off a dramatic comeback win over the Detroit Red Wings, who kicked the shit out of them in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. With Detroit sporting Marian Hossa, in whom the Pens invested heavily last season only to see him signed away in the summer, revenge must have been pretty sweet for Pittsburgh on national TV (well, the Versus network anyway) earlier this week.

So do the Flyers have what it takes to exact their revenge against the
team that bounced them from the conference finals last spring? If so, they'll
need to put together a 60-minute effort, something that too often
eludes this group, and play like they did against the Devils in

Some of the best games of the last season in the NHL were between these two clubs, and even with the Flyers' struggles so far, tonight shouldn't be any different. There is acknowledged fire in the players and even the coaches, with real disdain for the other side.

Make no mistake about it—the Pens are a great team. They can score with the best of them, and the Flyers' defensive efforts will have to match Pittsburgh's speedy attack to keep a win within reach. That said, with the blue line still depleted and the defensive play of the forwards lacking at times, tonight's game may need to come down to intensity. This Pens team can be taken off its game, as we saw a few times last season, but they're on top of it right now, winning their last four. The Flyers need to come out of the locker room on fire.

Anything less than a total effort by the visitors, and it could get ugly. But winning a game like this can be the motivation a wayward team needs to get on track.

Update: Due to the Briere and Cote injuries, defenseman Lasse Kukkonen will be skating as a center between Asham and Gratton tonight. Seriously. Lasse Kukkonen.

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