Penguins-Flyers rivalry continues with Jeff Carter back in Philly jersey

NHL Hockey

Penguins-Flyers rivalry continues with Jeff Carter back in Philly jersey

The timing makes for an interesting script for the newest Penguin, forward Jeff Carter, who will face his original team Thursday when the Philadelphia Flyers visit Pittsburgh.

Carter was the Penguins’ sole acquisition leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline Monday in a trade for draft picks with the Los Angeles Kings, where he won two Stanley Cups.

The 36-year-old was a first-round draft pick in 2003 and spent his first six NHL seasons with the Flyers. He broke into the league in 2005-06, the same season as Pittsburgh star center Sidney Crosby, and has been part of the “Crosby era” — the latest chapter in what has been a deep and at times nasty rivalry between the cross-state teams for decades.

“Sid and I were just talking about that,” Carter said after arriving in Pittsburgh. “Just the battles that we had when we first came into the league.”

While he was with the Flyers, it might have been farfetched to envision Carter playing against Philadelphia in a Penguins jersey, but he didn’t let the rivalry cloud his appreciation of the Pittsburgh core players who are still with the club.

“I always had a lot of respect for the (now) veteran guys that are here that I played against — Sid and (Evgeni) Malkin and (Kris) Letang … I’m just happy to be able to suit up with them now and looking forward to it.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Carter, who in recent seasons has been playing right wing, would likely start off playing center — his original spot — because of injuries to Malkin and Freddy Gaudreau.

Sullivan also expects Carter be used in some capacity on the power play and penalty kill.

Pittsburgh has won three straight games and eight of the past 10 to sit in the thick of the East Division title chase.

Perhaps the rivalry with the Penguins will provide some motivation for the Flyers, who have nearly gone into freefall — 8-13-3 in 24 games after being in strong contention for a playoff spot with an 11-4-3 start.

They have lost two straight and four of their past five. That includes watching last-place Buffalo come back to win 5-3 Sunday and then being less than competitive Tuesday in a 6-1 loss at Washington.

“No matter what, you should be prepared for every game,” Philadelphia center Sean Couturier said. “It’s part of being a pro. It’s not going to be any different. I hope everyone knows that.”

While the teams holding down the playoff spots in the East each made moves to bolster their roster at or just before the trade deadline — such as Carter with Pittsburgh — the Flyers instead dealt away “rental players” Michael Raffl and Erik Gustafsson, and signed forward Scott Laughton to a contract extension.

That would seem to send the message that Philadelphia is looking toward the future and not counting on being a contender this season. The Flyers currently sit sixth and six points behind fourth-place Boston (Pittsburgh sits third). Tuesday’s post-deadline performance against the Capitals might indicate the message was received.

Flyers coach Alain Vigneault did offer a caveat: “I will say it was our sixth game in nine nights, and it’s a tremendous amount of hockey.”

And Laughton believes there is still a will to win in the team.

“Obviously, it’s not the year we wanted to have so far, but we’re still in the mix and we have to keep fighting, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

–Field Level Media

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