The last time they were in Philadelphia, the Chicago Blackhawks were raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in nearly half a century.
With the way the teams have played this season, a rematch isn’t out of the question, but the Flyers and Blackhawks could use a victory Thursday night to help them in their respective division races.
Patrick Kane’s goal from an unlikely angle in overtime June 9, 2010, set off a celebration that was 49 years in the making. Flyers fans at that Game 6 watched Chicago lift the cup and were left to mourn another missed opportunity in a title drought that’s now at 37 years, and counting.
At times this season, Philadelphia (22-11-4) has appeared capable of ending that drought, but a 2-4-1 stretch hasn’t helped its chances to repeat as Atlantic Division champs. A 3-2 loss to New York in the Winter Classic on Monday dropped the Flyers four points behind the first place Rangers. And needless to say the Flyers had a 2 goal lead, then allowed 3 un-answered goals.
After barely making the playoffs last season, Chicago (24-11-4) is looking more like the championship club of two seasons ago. The Central Division leader, though, has suffered three regulation losses in the last six games after enduring one in its previous 11 contests, allowing Detroit to pull within one point.
The Blackhawks couldn’t take advantage of a home matchup with struggling Edmonton on Monday, falling 4-3, and former Flyer Daniel Carcillo played a big part in the outcome. After he pushed Tom Gilbert into the boards in the second period, the Oilers capitalized with a pair of goals during the five minute penalty.
The NHL suspended Carcillo seven games Wednesday, and he also suffered an undisclosed injury on the play. So much for that Zach Rinaldo vs Daniel Carcillo fight tonight.
In addition to Carcillo being out, the Blackhawks placed defenseman Steve Montador and center Marcus Kruger on injured reserve Wednesday.
The Flyers are also dealing with the absence of one of their key players, as they announced Tuesday that Jaromir Jagr would miss 7 to 10 days with a mild groin strain. Jagr played sparingly in the Winter Classic before leaving for good in the second period.
Claude Giroux will look to make up for the loss of his team’s third leading scorer by trying to regain the NHL points lead. The center’s goal in the Winter Classic gave him 46 points this season and 17 in the last 10 games (five goals, 12 assists).
Giroux had his first four point performance, all assists, during a 4-1 win in Chicago on Jan. 23, with Hartnell scoring the last of his team’s three goals in the third period.
Hartnell, who has two goals and six assists during a six game point streak, will try to help his team continue its regular season dominance over the Blackhawks while facing former teammate Ray Emery. The Flyers have taken 14 of 16 matchups overall and eight in a row in Philadelphia since a 4-1 loss Nov. 9, 1996.
Emery has proved a capable backup to Corey Crawford this season and was 5-1-0 with a 2.11 GAA during a string of six consecutive starts. However, he’s 2-3-0 with a 3.38 GAA in six career appearances against Philadelphia.
The Flyers will turn to Ilya Bryzgalov after starting Sergei Bobrovsky in the Winter Classic. Bryzgalov is 3-2-1 with a 2.26 GAA in his last six starts against Chicago, while Bobrovsky made 31 saves in his only one versus the Blackhawks on Jan. 23.
Chicago Blackhawks – Ray Emery
Philadelphia Flyers – Ilya Bryzgalov
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