Flyers Look For First Win Of 2012 Against Surging Blackhawks
Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers (22-11-4) will host the Chicago Blackhawks (24-11-4) for the first time since the team skated around Wells Fargo Center with Lord Stanley's Cup high above their heads.
No one will ever forget the strangeness of the goal that ended game six, as Patrick Kane stormed the Philadelphia net and exploited Michael Leighton’s open five-hole.
With the puck lodged behind the padding on the lower portion of the goal, Kane and his Chicago teammates skated ice length to their own goal to celebrate their first championship in 50 years.
However, the Flyers will try to keep those memories deep in their minds as they try to bounce back from their most recent loss to the New York Rangers at this year's Winter Classic.
That loss cost the Flyers the top spot in the Atlantic and now has them trailing the Rangers by four points.
Unfortunately that was not the only loss the Flyers suffered on that eventful day. Jaromir Jagr suffered (in the most common of NHL terms) a ‘lower body injury,’ and is expected to miss seven-10 days. He missed four games earlier this season to a similar injury. The Flyers will have a tough time making up for Jagr's skill and contributions to the power play while he is out.
One player that will give it a shot will be Matt Read who has 12 goals in his rookie season. He was on the top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell during Wednesday’s practice. With his ability to find open space, Read should find success while paired with Giroux, arguably the best player in the league right now.
This is the only meeting of the season. The Flyers are 2-4-1 in their last seven games.
Chicago is 4-3-0 in their last seven and are second in the Western Conference trailing the Vancouver Canucks by two points.
The Flyers are 0-1 in the game after playing the Winter Classic. In 2010 they played in Ottawa and suffered a 7-4 loss.
The matchup to keep your eye on tonight will be in the face-off circle. The Blackhawks are third in the league winning 52% of their draws while the Flyers still hover down at the bottom of the pack in the 27th spot with a 47.2% success rate.
First year rookie Sean Couturier is pretty strong in the face-off circle and having him back off injury will only help the Flyers in this area of need. Brayden Schenn, also coming back from injury could also be of some help; he won 75% of his faceoffs in the Winter Classic.
Look for ex-Flyers' goalie Ray Emery (9-2-2, 2.54 GAA) to get the start against the Flyers tonight. Emery is 2-3-0 with a lifetime 3.38 GAA against Philadelphia.
Look for Ilya Bryagalov (14-8-3-1, 3.01 gaa) to get the nod for the Flyers tonight.
He did not play in the Winter Classic as Peter Laviolette decided to play Sergei Bobrovsky who was performing at a higher level at the time. He is 3-2-1 with a 2.66 GAA in his last six starts against Chicago.
Bryzgalov needs to get back on track and get his head back in shut down mode. With the HBO circus on their way home he should be able to focus on his game and not his next 24/7 performance.
The Flyers cannot afford to blow coverage’s in their own zone tonight as the Blackhawks have a fast and talented team that will capitalize on breakdowns.
Step Up Players
Be sure to follow TCL Flyers on twitter (@TCLFlyers).