FLYERS (31-12-5) at BLACKHAWKS (26-18-4)
TV: NBC (HD), RIS, NHLN-CA
Philadelphia 8-2-0; Chicago 6-3-1
This is the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these clubs, which met last spring in the Stanley Cup Final. Chicago ended a 49-year title drought by winning Game 6 in Philadelphia on an overtime goal by Patrick Kane
. The Flyers edged the Blackhawks 3-2 in the last regular-season meeting on March 13, 2010 as Chris Pronger
scored with 2.1 seconds left in regulation.
Big story: Michael Leighton
is in the AHL and a number of Blackhawks -- including goalie Antti Niemi and Dustin Byfuglien -- changed addresses after lifting the Cup, but most of the key players from that hard-fought, six-game Final will be present at the United Center on Sunday afternoon for what amounts to much more than your run-of-the-mill regular-season game. A national TV audience will be watching as Philadelphia looks to extend its lead in the Eastern Conference and Chicago attempts to continue its run of strong play that has helped solidify its playoff positioning to make the run at a repeat.
The players claimed afterward they didn't get caught looking ahead, but Philadelphia wasn't at its best Saturday afternoon in a 3-1 loss to Atlantic Division rival New Jersey. With a chance to become the first expansion-era team to win its 1,000th home game, the Flyers instead surrendered a pair of goals to the Devils in the opening period and managed only James van Riemsdyk
's goal in the closing minute of the second.
"I don't think we took them too lightly," forward Scott Hartnell
said. "I think we just made a couple errors defensively, and they were able to capitalize. Whoever you're playing, it's going to be tough to play catch-up."
Just like its Sunday opponent, Chicago had a matinee Saturday against a bitter rival. The Blackhawks came away with a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, thanks in large part to an ex-Detroit player, Tomas Kopecky. He tallied twice and the Hawks also received goals from Dave Bolland
and Troy Brouwer, as well as a sparkling 36-save effort from Corey Crawford
in net. They're now 5-0-1 over their last half-dozen games.
"We've got confidence in ourselves," Kopecky said. "Just going with the flow."
Who's hot: Claude Giroux
has 2 goals and 4 assists during a five-game points streak for the Flyers, while captain Mike Richards has 3 goals and 3 assists over his last four games and van Riemsdyk has goals in consecutive games. … Bolland has 5 goals and 3 assists during a five-game points streak for the Blackhawks. Kopecky has 3 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. Brouwer has 4 goals in as many games. Crawford is 4-0-1 in his last five starts, allowing just five goals over that span and posting a .965 save percentage.
Detroit will be missing backup goalie Chris Osgood (sports hernia), defenseman Brad Stuart (jaw) and forwards Mike Modano (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (hand/wrist), Danny Cleary (ankle) and Tomas Holmstrom (hand).
Stat pack: Danny Briere
led all scorers in the Stanley Cup Final with 3 goals and 12 points for the Flyers. Hartnell added 5 goals and 9 points, while Ville Leino finished with 3 goals and 9 points. … Kane led the Blackhawks in the series with 3 goals and 8 points. Duncan Keith
had 1 goal and 7 points. Sharp was one of three players on the team with 6 points and added a team-best plus-7 rating.
The goaltending matchup Sunday will definitely be different, with Niemi now in San Jose and Leighton having been displaced in Philadelphia by the combo of veteran Brian Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky
. Boucher did come on in relief twice during the Final. Chicago can entrust this game to its own rookie, Crawford, or go with veteran Marty Turco, signed as a free agent over the summer after Niemi left.
With all the attention leading up to this game, the players will be ready to go by the first puck drop Sunday.
"Those games have more hype to them," Kane said. "I'm sure the fans are going to be wild that game, too. It's going to have a playoff feel to it, probably even a Stanley Cup feel to it."