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Indoors or out, domed arena or the more conventional structure of their current home, no matter the venue, a Penguins-Flyers game carries extra significance.
“You always want to beat Pittsburgh,” Philadelphia forward Jakub Voracek said from the Heinz Field visitor's locker room early Friday evening. “Every game against Pittsburgh is special.”
For the first five seasons of Consol Energy Center's existence, it was extremely special for the Flyers. Counting the playoffs, the Penguins had two regulation wins in their first 16 games against their fiercest rival at the now-PPG Paints Arena.
Perhaps as a result, Flyers players report Pittsburgh fans — despite the long history and bitter rivalry — aren't any more hostile toward them than any other road venue.
“I haven't found it to be too bad,” Flyers protagonist Wayne Simmonds said. “I'm sure they don't like us too much. You get your fair share of signs in the stands and they chirp at us, but that's just the nature of the beast (anywhere). Just how it works.”
It's fair to say the visitors aren't too intimidated here — indoors or out.
“We've had some success here in Pittsburgh,” forward Brayden Schenn said. “Hopefully, it translates to Heinz.”
A ‘G' thing
It's been about five years since then-Flyers coach Peter Laviolette declared Claude Giroux “the best player in the world” after their team beat the Penguins in a playoff series.
No one would agree with that assessment today. Giroux has 12 goals and a minus-19 rating in 60 games. He has only two goals since Christmas (25 games). It's not a coincidence the Flyers plummeted in the standings in that time, going 8-14-3.
Still, Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol complimented his captain, saying he's “working as hard as I've ever seen him, and competing as hard as he ever has” and adding, over the past five games, he's seen signs Giroux is about to reverse his fortunes.
“A player like ‘G,' with his ability and with the experience and poise that he has,” Hakstol said, “if he continues to do the right things, good things are going to happen.”
Heinz experience – sort of
Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth steadfastly insists he's never played in an outdoor hockey game.
“Never in my life,” he said.
“I don't think, no,” Neuvirth maintained, when pressed.
Still, Neuvirth goes into Saturday's game with more Heinz Field experience than his expected counterpart, Penguins goalie Matt Murray. Neuvirth was the backup for the Washington Capitals when they played in the venue for the 2011 Winter Classic.
“I just remember we won, 3-1,” Neuvirth said, “and that it was a great experience, even though I didn't play.”
Nice outdoor memory
While the Penguins have scored just three goals total in the franchise's previous three outdoor games, one Flyers player has had a memorable positive offensive moment. Brayden Schenn recorded his first career goal in the 2012 Winter Classic against the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.
“Obviously, some good memories there,” Schenn said. “First outdoor game, first goal. So I'm a fan of the outdoor games.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
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