NHL

Flyers-Penguins Preview

Neither Pennsylvania team currently holds a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference race, but the Philadelphia Flyers should feel better about their position than a Pittsburgh Penguins club again falling short of expectations.

They've had plenty to celebrate after recent head-to-head meetings, too.

The Flyers look to win a ninth straight meeting and jump the Penguins in the standings when they meet Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia (20-16-8) missed the playoffs last season and brought in coach Dave Hakstol straight from the college level to help lead a turnaround. The Flyers may not have played as well as they'd hoped to this point, ranking second-to-last in goals, but they're certainly making progress.

They surged through a 5-0-1 stretch before falling 3-2 at home to Toronto on Tuesday and have a pair of four-game winning streaks since Thanksgiving after having only one all of last season.

Rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been a pleasant surprise since being called up from the AHL on Nov. 14 and scored his eighth goal in the third period against the Maple Leafs. The Flyers, though, allowed the winner in the final minute to the club that entered with the fewest wins in the league.

"We are not a playoff team if we come out like that. That's just not good for us," Gostisbehere said. "We have to prepare for everyone no matter who they are. I think we scored the first goal and thought it was going to be a big night for everyone on the stat sheet and we sat back a little bit. We're going to learn from these mistakes and keep pushing through."

Gostisbehere has yet to experience this rivalry with the Penguins (21-17-7), which has been extremely one-sided lately. Pittsburgh has not faced the Flyers this season and hasn't beaten them since Oct. 17, 2013, getting outscored 30-14 in the last eight matchups.

The Penguins have gone 2 for 29 on the power play in that stretch, and Sidney Crosby has only one goal and one assist in his last seven against Philadelphia. Ending their longest losing streak in the series since 1982-84 could boost a team that has dropped five of seven after falling 5-2 at St. Louis on Monday.

Evgeni Malkin's 20th goal put Pittsburgh ahead with 4:04 left in the second period, but it blew the lead 1:18 later and didn't score again. Despite acquiring Phil Kessel in the offseason, the Penguins rank near the bottom of the league in goals and sit in 11th place in the East, one point ahead of Philadelphia and Carolina.

"We've just got to find ways to win," said Crosby, who has two goals and four assists during a four-game point streak. "We're not any different and if we want to push into the playoffs here, we've got to find ways to do that."

Marc-Andre Fleury should be back in net after getting Monday off. He shut out Carolina with 22 saves Sunday but is 0-4-1 with a 4.03 goals-against average in his last six against the Flyers.

Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux will be looking to continue their success against Fleury and Pittsburgh. Voracek has three goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak against the Penguins, and Giroux has two goals and nine assists in his last seven against them.

Steve Mason has a 1.29 GAA in his last five starts against Pittsburgh.

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