PITTSBURGH – Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said all the right things about Monday night's opponent, the Flyers. He praised their high-scoring first line, their young defensemen, and their "dangerous" power play.
"They have a very good team," he said after the Penguins morning skate Monday at the PPG Paints Arena. "Every time the Penguins and Flyers play one another, I think they're two proud franchises with histories of success, and they're always emotional games and hard-fought battles."
That "very good team" has lost seven straight and has fallen to the bottom of the Metropolitan standings.
An optimist would point out that the Flyers aren't far off, that they have points in four of their last five games, that with a play here or there in overtime, they could have a winning streak.
But the fact is, the Flyers have not been getting it done at crunch time. In a league where parity should be its trademark, failing to get the extra point in overtimes and shootouts could be the difference between making the playoffs and getting a good tee time in April.
"When they're playing hard and doing a lot of good things, frustration does creep in," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "But it's got to be very short-lived. You have to have a short memory and turn the page really quick. And especially for our tenm, understand the things we're doing well, and really also understand and evaluate the things we can do better."
Exhibit A: The penalty kill. The Flyers have been abysmal. They have allowed a total of eight power-play goals over the last four games. For the season, they have killed just 74.7 percent of their penalties, placing them 28th in the 31-team league.
Maybe Andrew MacDonald will help. He will return to the Flyers' lineup Monday after missing 15 games with a leg injury.
The Flyers (8-9-6) will face a Pittsburgh power play that ranks second in the NHL, clicking at 26.6 percent.
Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins with six power-play goals, followed by Jake Guentzel with five.
The Penguins (12-10-3) have struggled mightily in five-on-five play, getting outscored by a 57-33 margin. But their power play has been their lifeline. Pittsburgh has gone 6 for 11 on the power play over its last three games.
In other words, the Flyers would be wise to stay out of the penalty box Monday.
Dads' trip. Fourteen of the Flyers' dads are on the trip: Vladimir Provorov, Kent Sanheim, Pertti Lehtera, Tim Leier, Rob Konecny, Peter Hagg, Bill Elliott, Cyril Simmonds, Leroy Manning, Sylvain Couturier, Robert MacDonald, Craig Laughton, Ray Giroux, and Kelly Weal.
The group went to Heinz Field Sunday night and watched the Steelers outlast the Green Bay Packers.
Breakaways. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin skated on his own Monday but did not practice with the team, a sign he will miss his fourth straight game because of an undisclosed injury. … The Flyers are 12-3-1 in PPG Paints Arena since it opened in 2010-11. … Penguins winger Carter Rowney played for Hakstol at North Dakota. He has one goal and two points in 11 games. … Goalie Brian Elliott, who will start Monday for the Flyers, needs three wins to reach the 200 mark. … Jake Voracek has a five-game points streak (three goals, five assists). … Sean Couturier is tied for fifth in the NHL with 13 goals, two shy of equaling his career high.