(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Pittsburgh Penguins hope to return to the win column on Sunday afternoon, but they'll have to solve the Philadelphia Flyers to do so.
Pittsburgh aims to halt a lengthy slide in the series with their cross-state rivals when it makes a stop today at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers cruised to a 4-1 triumph Wednesday in Pittsburgh, earning a seventh straight win over their Keystone State rivals. Philadelphia also pushed its record to 11-1-1 all-time during the regular season at CONSOL Energy Center, the arena which replaced the Igloo prior to the 2010-11 season.
Philly can sweep the season series with a fourth win against the Pens in 2014-15. The Flyers haven't swept Pittsburgh in a season series since taking all seven encounters during the 1983-84 campaign.
Pittsburgh has lost two straight in Philadelphia after taking the previous three encounters at Wells Fargo Center.
The Penguins enter Sunday having lost two straight, four of five and eight of their last 11 games. As a result, the club has dropped into a tie with Boston for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker because it holds a game in hand over the Bruins, who are idle Sunday.
Pittsburgh also is only three points ahead of the Ottawa Senators, who are just outside the playoff picture. Like the Pens, Ottawa has four games left in the regular season. The Sens play Sunday night in Toronto.
The Pens lost 5-3 in Columbus on Saturday despite holding a 2-0 lead at one point. It was the fifth loss in the last six road games for Pittsburgh, which fell to 19-12-7 as the visiting team this season.
Sidney Crosby, Brandon Sutter and Ben Lovejoy had goals in loss for the Penguins, who also lost ground to the New York Islanders and Washington in the race for two of the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders are three ahead of Pittsburgh in second place, while the Pens trail the Capitals by two. New York is off on Sunday, but the Caps visit Detroit.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30-of-34 shots and Ian Cole contributed a pair of assists in Saturday's loss.
The Pens are hoping to have forward Evgeni Malkin in the lineup today after the Russian star sat out Saturday for the second straight game with a lower- body injury. Malkin has missed eight of Pittsburgh's last 10 outings due to the nagging injury. If the forward is unable to go this afternoon, it is expected he'll be ready for Tuesday's tilt in Ottawa.
"We'll see; we're not going to force it," Pens coach Mike Johnston said of Malkin's status. "I'm sure he'll be ready for Tuesday, but we'll see how it goes for Sunday."
Pittsburgh will remain shorthanded on its blue line with Kris Letang (concussion) and Christian Ehrhoff (head) out of the lineup again today. Letang has missed the last three games and is out indefinitely. Ehrhoff has sat out five in a row, but could return on Tuesday.
Thomas Greiss is expected to start today. Pittsburgh's backup goaltender is 2-0-1 with a 1.63 goals against average in his career versus the Flyers.
The Flyers will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, but should relish another chance to dampen Pittsburgh's playoff chances.
After beating the Pens on Wednesday, Philadelphia lost a shootout decision Saturday afternoon at Carolina. The setback kept the Flyers from winning consecutive games for the first time since beating Nashville and Washington on Feb. 21 and 22.
Philly pushed the Hurricanes to overtime thanks to Sean Couturier's goal with 1:50 left in the third period, but Nathan Gerbe and Chris Terry scored in the shootout to lift Carolina to the 3-2 victory.
Michael Raffl scored the other regulation goal for the Flyers, who fell to 3-11 in shootouts this season. Ray Emery stopped 24-of-26 shots in his first start since March 21.
Nick Cousins notched the only goal of the shootout for Philadelphia, while Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux missed their attempts.
The Flyers are capping the season on a four-game homestand and will welcome the New York Islanders, Carolina and Ottawa before closing the book on 2014-15.
Philly finished the season with a dismal 10-20-11 road record, but is 21-9-7 as the host.
"It's been two different stories at home and on the road for us," Emery said after Saturday's loss in Raleigh. "I think that's pretty much the difference in our year. I don't know why, but we'll put that in the past and learn from it."
Steve Mason is expected to start in net for the Flyers. He is 5-2-1 with a 2.35 GAA in nine career outings versus the Penguins.