The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers for three games in a row beginning Tuesday, and the teams enter the miniseries with differing mindsets.
With two originally scheduled games and one that is a makeup of an earlier postponement, the three games could alter the clubs' lot in the tight East. Approaching the midpoint of the season, the fourth-place Flyers are two points ahead of the Penguins with two games in hand.
Philadelphia is flying fairly high after back-to-back 3-0 shutouts of Buffalo over the weekend, while Pittsburgh is feeling chapped after a lackluster 2-0 loss Sunday on the road against the Islanders.
The Flyers, who have won three in a row, got a shutout apiece from goaltenders Brian Elliott and Carter Hart.
"I think we're playing some good hockey," Philadelphia center Sean Couturier said. "We're responsible with and without the puck. We're making the right decisions, and I think we're trending the right way.
"We're hard to play against right now, and I think that leads to our offense most of the time."
Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault, who picked up his 700th career win Sunday, is going to count on defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to help keep the Penguins frustrated on offense after he played on the top pairing with Ivan Provorov, often matched against Buffalo's top line, and on the top power-play unit.
"He's playing with a lot more pop in his step," Vigneault said of Gostisbehere. "He's healthy for us. Great for him. Great for us. Great for our team. And he's obviously playing with more confidence, offensively and defensively.
"Those are top-end players (he countered in Buffalo), and we're going to see some top-end players against Pittsburgh -- and we're going to expect him and our whole team to be ready for it."
Philadelphia is 2-0 this year against the Penguins, by a collective 11-5 score.
Pittsburgh isn't so much thinking back to its earlier games against the Flyers. With a day off Monday, the Penguins were left to stew over their loss against the Islanders, which was their second loss in the past three games.
While it was just one contest, Sunday's game left Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan about as frustrated as he has ever seemed publicly and he was terse in discussing his team.
Sullivan had his reasons -- the Penguins didn't register a shot for more than 15 minutes at the start of Sunday's game, their penalty killers allowed both goals, and they were 0-for-2 on the power play.
Asked about the penalty kill, which ranks near the bottom of the NHL at 72.1 percent efficiency, Sullivan snapped, "It's a number of things. It's just not good enough. We've got to be better. ... We are what we are there. We're giving up too many goals there. It's not good enough."
Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin questioned his team's effort.
"It's work," he said, suggesting the Islanders bested the Penguins in that area and set an example Pittsburgh would do well to follow.
"They just work 60 minutes," Malkin said. "They don't play a pretty game. They play simple and win every battle in the offensive zone. They really work. If we (expect) to win, we need to work, too."
--Field Level Media
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