On paper, this looks like a mismatch. The Penguins (5-1) are atop the new Metropolitan Division, with Sidney Crosby (five goals, seven assists) and Evgeni Malkin (two goals, four assists) already in peak form.
The Flyers (1-6) just dropped a 3-2 game to Vancouver, where they coughed up the game-winner with just 2:25 remaining. They are still looking for their first three-goal game and their-leading scorer, Tye McGinn, wasn't even here until last weekend.
That's on paper.
But when these two square off on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night, forget the records and all those statistics. They won't mean a thing because invariably — as with any great rivalry — these teams bring out of the best in each other.
Something needs to click for the Flyers, who deserved a better fate the other night, yet were done in by their inability to put the biscuit in the basket. The fact that McGinn — called up with Michael Raffl when Scott Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier went down with injuries — leads the team with three goals in two games, speaks volumes. More telling, captain Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Sean Couturier are all still looking for their first.
On one level, the Flyers should be outclassed facing their cross-state rivals, a team that beat Philadelphia three of four times in the lockout-shortened season, after being eliminated by the Orange and Black in the 2012 playoffs. On the other, they are long overdue to break out against somebody.
"It gets pretty emotional when we play Pittsburgh," said new coach Craig Berube, 1-3 since replacing Peter Laviolette. "They hit get fired up. We get fired up. I'm looking for some good emotion, but controlled emotion. We need to do a good job on Crosby and Malkin. They're great players, dangerous players. We need to neutralize them best we can."
Then figure out a way to start putting the puck in the net.
"When Pittsburgh comes to town it's always easy to get up for the game," said McGinn, "but we've got to stick to our game plan. We've been playing some good hockey, though the record doesn't show it right now.''
After Thursday, the Flyers have a week off. Berube will likely use that time like a mini-training camp, before taking on the Rangers here. Before that, they'd like something to show for their efforts.
"We've got to play desperate,'' said Simmonds. "We've got to start getting points here, no excuses."
The good thing for the last-place Flyers is the only way they can go from here is up.