Game 31 Preview: Philadelphia Flyers @ Chicago Blackhawks

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Philadelphia Flyers (13-14-3) @ Chicago Blackhawks (22-6-5), 8:00pm, NBCSN/TSN2

The Philadelphia Flyers will look to end their two-game losing streak tonight, but it’s not going to be an easy task, as they conclude their road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks. With a record of 2-2-1 so far on their road trip, a win tonight would not only put the Orange and Black over .500 for the stretch away from the Wells Fargo Center, but two points would put Philly at .500 overall. However, is it likely a road win against the defending Stanley Cup champions happens tonight in Chicago?

The short answer is no. The Blackhawks are first in the NHL with 3.58 goals per game, they have the second-best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio in the NHL, the fifth-ranked power play at 22.9%, and are regarded as the best puck possession team in the league, so the Flyers will have their hands full. The only real question about the club is goaltending, as they will be putting in their third-string netminder Antti Raanta for a second straight night. Unfortunately, however, with the Flyers’ production against other backup and third-string goalies this season, it’s not always a guarantee that not facing the starter helps the Orange and Black. For a team that rarely gets the disc to the cage on nights when they struggle, if Chicago’s forwards and defensemen are able to control the puck as anticipated, it could get real ugly in the Windy City for the Flyers.

Although there aren’t too many statistics that give the Flyers or their fans hope tonight, there is a reason why the games are played. You never know what can happen. The Blackhawks did play last night, as they blasted the Dallas Stars 6-2 in Texas. Perhaps the defending champions have an off night on the second game of a back-to-back against an out-of-conference opponent that is currently out of playoff position or maybe Raanta isn’t as focused as he was last night in his second start in as many days. These outcomes aren’t likely, as the Blackhawks have shown they are capable of pushing these distractions to the side over the last two years, but the remaining animosity from the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals and exchanging of a few players are still fresh in the team’s minds.

The Flyers played in the Blackhawks in the finals three years ago. A lot of the roster for both clubs is gone, but most of the main components are still present with their respected clubs. For Philly, the group of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, and Braydon Coburn will have more of an edge to their game remembering the pain they had from the 2010 verdict. As for Chicago, the cast of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson have won another Stanley Cup since then to add to the one from 2010. Whether or not they still have the same animosity for the Flyers after winning another title last year will have to be seen tonight.

Another interesting aspect of tonight’s game will be Ray Emery in net against his former team. Emery had an amazing season last year for Chicago, as he went 17-1-3 with a .922 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA. He served as the team’s backup and tried to used last year’s performance to help him land a starting job somewhere else. Ironically, he came back to Philly, but is now serving as the team’s backup. Emery will be motivated to play against his old squad and will hopefully provide a performance similar to the team’s win in Pittsburgh earlier this season. If the Flyers get a strong performance out of Emery and return to their strong defensive play they had earlier in the road trip, Philadelphia will have a shot at winning tonight.

A win tonight would be another noteworthy win for the Flyers, as their other big wins this year have come against the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings on the road. This road trip has been a test for this inconsistent club, but if they were to come away with six or seven points, it might be a point of the season we look back at if Philly were to squeak into the playoffs.

RECORDS
Philadelphia Flyers
Overall: 13-14-3
Away: 6-7-3
Against the Western Conference: 3-5-1
Against the Central Division: 2-2-1

Chicago Blackhawks
Overall: 22-6-5
Home: 10-2-4
Against the Eastern Conference: 8-0-2
Against the Metropolitan Division: 3-0-0

PROJECTED LINEUPS
Philadelphia Flyers
Scott Hartnell – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl – Brayden Schenn – Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Steve Downie
Jay Rosehill – Adam Hall – Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen – Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit – Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn – Andrej Meszaros

Ray Emery
Steve Mason

Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Michal Handzus – Patrick Kane
Brandon Saad – Andrew Shaw – Jeremy Morin
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Johnny Oduya
Nick Leddy – Mike Kostka

Antti Raanta
Kent Simpson

TEAM LEADERS
Philadelphia Flyers
Goals: Matt Read and Vincent Lecavalier, 9
Assists: Claude Giroux, 15
Points: Claude Giroux, 20
Power-Play Points: Claude Giroux, 11
Plus/Minus: Sean Couturier, plus-6
PIMs: Zac Rinaldo, 81
Average TOI: Braydon Coburn, 22:49
GAA: Steve Mason, 2.33
Save Percentage: Steve Mason, .927

Chicago Blackhawks
Goals: Patrick Kane, 17
Assists: Duncan Keith, 26
Points: Patrick Kane, 40
Power-Play Points: Patrick Kane, 15
Plus/Minus: Brent Seabrook, plus-17
PIMs: Brandon Bollig, 47
Average TOI: Duncan Keith, 24:21
GAA:
Antti Raanta, 2.14
Save Percentage: Antti Raanta, .924

INJURIES
Philadelphia Flyers
Vincent Lecavalier – Back (Injured Reserve)

Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford – Lower-body injury (Three weeks)
Nikolai Khabibulin – Lower-body injury (day-to-day)
Bryan Bickell – Knee (Injured Reserve)

FORMER PLAYERS
Former Flyers in Chicago’s organization
With Chicago: Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus, Kris Versteeg, Dennis Bonvie (Scout, played for Philadelphia Phantoms)
With the Rockford IceHogs (AHL): Ted Dent, head coach (assistant coach with Trenton Titans)
With the Toledo Walleye (ECHL): NONE

Former Blackhawks in Philadelphia’s organization
With Philadelphia: Ray Emery
With the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL): NONE
With the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL): Marc-Olivier Vallerand (Rockford IceHogs)