Better With Popcorn

Weekly Flyers Preview: Mar. 10-16

The Flyers continue their playoff push this week against a couple division rivals.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 vs. New Jersey Devils (28-24-13, 69 points, 6th Metropolitan)7:00, CSN

Since returning from the Olympics, the Devils have won four of six games, with wins over Columbus and Detroit.

The Devils are 12-16-6 with a -15 goal differential away from Prudential Center.

New Jersey is tied for 20th in scoring, as they average 2.48 goals per game. Ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr leads the club in points (55) and has hit the twenty goal mark for the 18th year, giving him 701 total for his career. Adam Henrique leads the team with 23 goals. In the six games since the Olympic break, Henrique has nine goals.

In addition, Michael Ryder has scored 16, and Flyer killer Patrik Elias has 14. Travis Zajac has scored eleven goals while a trio of Devils (Dainius Zubrus, Damien Brunner and Marek Zidlicky) have ten. Newcomer Tuomo Ruutu scored Saturday in just his second game with New Jersey.

On the flip side from their weak scoring, they are seventh in goals against (2.45). Despite his struggles this season, Marty Brodeur (16-11-4, 2.54, .898) will be in net Tuesday against the Flyers. Brodeur will be looking for his 50th career win against the Flyers as lifetime he is 49-31-10, along with a 2.39 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

Even though the Devils struggle to score, they have the sixth ranked power play (20.8%). Henrique and Zidlicky lead the team with seven power play goals, and defenseman Eric Gelinas has five.  New Jersey has the second best penalty kill at 86.4%.

Saturday, March 15, 2014 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (43-17-4, 90 points, 1st Metropolitan)1:00, CSN, NHLN

Sunday, March 16, 2014 @ Pittsburgh Penguins 12:30, NBC

The Flyers take on the Penguins in a home-and-home series over the weekend.  Pittsburgh will be coming off their own home-and-home series with Washington, which began Monday.

Pittsburgh’s high octane offense averages 3.11 goals per game, ranking fifth in the league. The offense, of course, is led by Sidney Crosby, who has 30 goals this season (sixth) and 87 points (first in the NHL). His wingman Chris Kunitz has set a career high in goals with 31, leading the club.

The other superstar on the roster, Evgeni Malkin, is also racking up the points (65) while scoring 19 goals. On his wings, James Neal has scored 22 goals this season and Jussi Jokinen has 16. Third liner Brendan Sutter has ten, while a pair of defenseman (Olli Maatta and Matt Niskanen) have scored nine apiece.

The Penguins rank seventh in goals against, allowing 2.45 per game. Marc-Andre Fleury has had a good year thus far, with a 33-14-3 record, while posting a 2.31 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. With the back-to-back games, however, it will be likely that backup Jeff Zatkoff (10-3-1, 2.70, .912) will get one of the starts. Zatkoff has played two of the last three games for Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh has the best special teams in the league. Their power play is deadly, scoring on 25.6% of man advantages (first). They have gotten goals from many players, but Kunitz (13th) and Crosby (10th) have led the way. James Neal has eight, while Malkin has five. The Penguins’ 86.9% penalty killing ranks first and they have only allowed three shorthanded goals all season.

Weekly Expectation: 3 points

Since November 18, Dan has predicted Flyers points.

Realdeal: 56 points

Flyers: 56 points