Penguins at Flyers
The Keystone State rivals saw a great deal of each other last season before the Philadelphia Flyers bested the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. New captain Claude Giroux will look to keep the Penguins under his thumb on Saturday afternoon when the Flyers host their Atlantic Division adversaries in the NHL season opener. Giroux certainly got Sidney Crosby's attention with a crushing open-ice check in the first 10 seconds of the series-clinching Game 6 victory - followed by an unassisted goal shortly thereafter.
Reigning Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin (50 goals, 59 assists) is coming off a season in which he registered a league-best 109 points. The talented Russian will have a complete - albeit shortened - season with Crosby, who inked an impressive 12-year contract extension. Coach Dan Bylsma's club has high expectations despite last season's early ouster.
TV: 3 p.m., NBC
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (2011-12: 51-25-6, 2nd Atlantic Division): Potential Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang and gritty Brooks Orpik headline the last line of defense in front of Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL second-best 42 wins). The stud goaltender needs to forget his shaky effort versus the Flyers in the postseason if he wishes to guide the Penguins to their second Stanley Cup title in five years. Pittsburgh must also overcome the loss of Jordan Staal, who joined his brother Eric in Carolina.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (2011-12: 47-26-9, 3rd Atlantic Division): Giroux, who finished third in the NHL with 93 points, will proudly wear the "C" as Chris Pronger is unlikely to return to the ice after sustaining multiple concussions. With Matt Carle bolting to Tampa Bay via free agency and veteran Kimmo Timonen overcoming back surgery, the team's blue line could provide a bigger question mark than the traditional one in South Philadelphia: goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov, who was inconsistent at best in his first year with the Flyers, stayed sharp by playing in his native Russia during the lockout.
1. Both teams acquired new goaltenders in the offseason. Veteran Tomas Vokoun will come to the Steel City to back up Fleury, while Michael Leighton - who guided the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 - is back in the City of Brotherly Love.
2. Philadelphia LW Scott Hartnell's career-best 37 goals were more than the total of his previous two seasons (36).
3. Flyers C Danny Briere, who is sidelined with a wrist injury, collected five goals and three assists during the conference quarterfinal victory over the Penguins.