Game preview: Blackhawks return to Philadelphia
The last time that the Chicago Blackhawks played on Philadelphia ice, they did it hoisting aloft the Stanley Cup in June of 2010.
The two teams met late last January, too - when the Flyers readily beat the Blackhawks 4-1 at the United Center. At the time, Chicago had turned over half its roster in the post-Cup win salary cap purge, and the team was struggling to find its footing; they've come a long way since then.
This year, the Flyers know what the Blackhawks went through - they, too, turned over a great deal of their roster this summer following another disappointing year in the playoffs, and were thoroughly rebuilt. When the Blackhawks and Flyers drop the puck on Thursday night, the two teams facing each other will look vastly different than they did 19 months ago when they skated away after Game 6.
For Chicago, the core remains, but the character players have changed. The most notable among these, Daniel Carcillo, came to the Blackhawks after a couple seasons with the Flyers. This should have been his Philly homecoming, but after being suspended 7 games after boarding Tom Gilbert in Monday's game vs Edmonton - and injuring himself in the process - Carcillo is not likely to see any ice for several weeks. Expected to make their debuts with the Blackhawks on Friday are Andrew Shaw, a forward, and defenseman Dylan Olsen. Shaw is an agitator-type with a scoring touch; he practiced with the top line this morning, so it's to be determined where we'll see him Thursday night. Center Marcus Kruger is still recovering from a concussion and defenseman Steve Montador is still out with an "upper body" injury. (On a side note, Shaw will be the first player in Blackhawks history to don #65 for the club.) Goalie Ray Emery, who also once played for Philadelphia, is expected to get the start in goal.
On the Flyers side, team Captain Chris Pronger's season was cut short by injury; Ian Laperriere and Blair Betts join him in IR. The Blackhawks rookies won't get to play against Jaromir Jagr, who is out with a calf injury. But the injuries aren't slowing Philadelphia down - one of the league's leading scorers, Claude Giroux, has been leading the way for this revamped team. The Flyers are fresh off a loss in the Winter Classic and will be anxious for redemption against the equally high-flying Blackhawks; not to mention that the seven remaining Flyers from the 2009-10 season still feel motivation from the Cup loss two years ago. The Flyers are .500 at home (8-6-2) and could use some home wins.
In the standings, the Flyers have 2 games in hand against the Hawks and sit 4 points behind them in the league overall. The Blackhawks are second in the West; the Flyers are fourth in the East. Both teams will no doubt make the playoffs again. Philadelphia will definitely hope to jump-start an easy week ahead by bagging a win against one of the more challenging teams in the West. In the meantime, the Blackhawks are 10-7-1 on the road, including winning 5-1-0 in their past six road games stretching back to their game vs. Anaheim on November 25th. Chicago plays just eight road games between December and Janauary before facing their next major road trip in February.
WHERE TO WATCH: 6pm CT / 7pm ET on CSN; radio feed on WGN 720 (phone app available)