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Game 82, A Playoff Preview

The stage has been set, and the opponents have been decided: the Philadelphia Flyers (47-29-9) will be facing the Pittsburgh Penguins (50-29-6) in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Based on games played by both teams on Thursday night, Pittsburgh will end the season in 4th place and the Flyers in 5th in the Eastern Conference.

The New York Rangers clinched the East with a win over the Flyers on Tuesday night.

On Saturday, the Flyers and Penguins will meet in Pittsburgh for the last game of the regular season. It will be a preview of the playoff series to come, and will likely be an interesting game, based on the last matchup between the teams.

Last Sunday, the Flyers entered the Consol Energy Center undefeated in that location. They left the same way.

The team made it five wins in a row at Consol with a 6-4 victory over the Penguins.

It wasn’t the score that got everyone talking, though. It was the scrum that ensued late in the third period, when the Flyers were up 6-3.

In a move that Peter Laviolette called “gutless,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sent out his checking line with just over a minute left to go in the game and his team down three goals.

Forward Joe Vitale levelled Danny Briere with an open-ice hit, and Briere’s teammates didn’t take too kindly to it. All ten players on the ice started fighting. Even the coaches got into it, barking at each other from their respective benches.

When all was said and done, 52 penalty minutes had been assessed for both teams, and the fire had been lit.

The cross-town rivalry between these two teams has existed for years. But lately, it’s getting more intense, and will make for an exciting playoff series.

Before the playoffs begin, though, there’s still one more game to be played.

Game 82 won’t mean much for the standings, as the playoff seeding is set in stone. However, it’ll still be a hard-fought one.

 The coaches may choose to rest their best players to get them ready for the playoffs, so don’t be surprised to see the third- and fourth-liners get more ice time in Saturday’s game.

With Ilya Bryzgalov the clear starter in net for the playoffs, he may be given the day off. In that case, backup Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start. He has a 2-1-0 record against the Penguins this season.

If Pittsburgh follows suit and doesn’t start Marc-Andre Fleury, it would be Brent Johnson between the pipes. Johnson has played in 15 games for Pittsburgh this season and has a 5-7-2 record.

Despite the absence of ‘stars’ this game may have, a battle can still be expected. Both teams will be trying to establish their dominance and build momentum for the start of the postseason.

After Thursday’s win against Buffalo and their victory over the Penguins last Sunday, the Flyers have plenty of momentum as they head into Pittsburgh, where they’ve had much success.

Another hard-fought effort and win for the team would deliver another blow to the Penguins, throwing them off their game as they prepare for the playoffs.