Reeling Flyers hit Pittsburgh riding 7-game skid

PITTSBURGH -- The agendas going into the game Monday night at PPG Paints Arena are clear. The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to build on a feel-good win. The Philadelphia Flyers are desperate simply for a victory.

The Penguins (12-10-3) burst a three-game losing streak Saturday night with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Flyers (8-9-6) have lost seven in a row.

The teams' current form leaves the longtime bitter rivals in decidedly different moods going into their first meeting of the season.

"There was a lot to like about our game (Saturday)," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

That would include ending a two-game slide at home to improve to 7-2-1 at PPG Paints Arena and continued improvement on what had been a sagging penalty kill, holding the potent Lightning power play to 1-for-6. Pittsburgh also had a short-handed goal and two power-play goals in the first period for a 3-0 lead after enduring some flat starts recently.

"We came out good. I thought we were determined. Everyone was focused and ready to win the game," said Penguins winger Phil Kessel, who had two goals and two assists in the game for a team-leading 31 points. "Hopefully, we can build on that."

The Flyers are on the opposite end of the spectrum, winless since Nov. 9.

"We're all frustrated right now," Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux said.

Adding to the frustration is the nature of some of those seven Flyers losses. The first two were by shutout. Four of the past five have come in overtime or a shootout, including both ends of a home-and-home with the New York Islanders on Wednesday and Friday.

"Right now, it's a tough time," Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said. "There's still growth going on during this time. That always doesn't come easy. We've got to be up to that challenge mentally, physically to come back and do a little bit better and to really stick together hard as a group and continue to push forward."

It is a message that Hakstol's players understand.

"We've got to find a way to get confidence," Giroux said. "We've got to believe in what we're doing and (that) what we're doing is going to work. When we start believing that we're a good team and we can finish games and the way we play is going to win us games, we're going to start winning."

Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott said while he didn't have a gauge on Philadelphia's confidence, he believes climbing out of such a rut goes with the territory of being pro players.

"Everybody here is battling their own battles and trying to do their jobs," Elliott said. "You don't make it to this level without being able to handle things like this, being able to handle the ups and downs. I'm sure it's frustrating, but you have to manage that and channel it and use it as a positive."

Philadelphia could get some help: Veteran defenseman Andrew MacDonald is expected to return after missing 15 games because of a leg injury.

For Pittsburgh, center Evgeni Malkin's status is unclear. Malkin has missed two games because of an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
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