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Blackhawks' Smith getting chance to center Kane

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- It's been nearly four years since his Stanley Cup-winning goal here at Wells Fargo Center, but for Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane there's still something magical about coming to Philadelphia.

"Kind of cool to be back and remember what happened," Kane said after the Blackhawks' morning skate, which featured a toned-down re-creation of his goal celebration after he scored in overtime of Game 6 of the 2010 Cup Final. "It was a long time ago, but feels like it was just yesterday."

Among the things that have changed are Kane's linemates. When the Blackhawks face the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, he'll have Bryan Bickell on left wing and Ben Smith at center.

That trio was put together for parts of the final two periods Sunday during the Blackhawks' 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings after center Brandon Saad was injured.

Though Kane and Bickell have played together fairly often, adding Smith to the mix is a new wrinkle. Smith has played mostly on the wing on the fourth line, but said he does have experience playing center.

"I've played the odd game here or there [at center] in my pro career," Smith said. "Growing up I played a lot of center, and in college I played two years of center, two years of right wing. I have some experience, but not a lot in the last couple years."

Smith had a goal late in the second period after that line was put together and he hopes they can replicate that play Tuesday.

"The good thing for me is I've played with those guys before," Smith said. "I played a few games with [Kane] and with a bunch of these guys. I've had that experience playing with those guys. I know what to do to have success, which is really stick to my game. If I do that I can complement them."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has the same level of confidence.

"Benny has really progressed over the course of the year, gotten better and better, more comfortable with the puck," he said. "In the short stint we tried him up there it seemed to work. He scored a big goal and that helped us get a longer look at him in that spot. He's around the puck and defensively reliable. Offensively, he's got some upside. We're looking for some consistency in that line. In that short stint all three of those guys looked like it worked."

That stint could be very short. Quenneville said Saad, who did not make the trip to Philadelphia due to an upper-body injury sustained Sunday, "possibly" could play against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.

Quenneville will be going for his 700th win Tuesday. He would join Scotty Bowman (1,244) and Al Arbour (782) as the only NHL coaches to hit that milestone.

"I've been fortune to be with good teams," Quenneville said. "It's not like I've coached a lot of years, but all the teams I've had have had a lot of success because we've had good players, good character guys, and I've been part of good organizations as well. It's been a good process. I'd like to win [Tuesday].

Antti Raanta will start in goal Tuesday for the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford will start Wednesday against the Blues.

The Flyers also will go with their backup goalie Tuesday with Ray Emery starting his first game since Feb. 8, and playing for the first time in any capacity since a relief appearance Feb. 27 against the San Jose Sharks. Steve Mason has started the past eight games.

Flyers coach Craig Berube said the opposition Tuesday being the Blackhawks, Emery's former team, had nothing to do with his decision, nor did the fact Emery could be looking for redemption after he allowed six goals on 18 shots when the Flyers played in Chicago on Dec. 11.

"We didn't help him out at all [in the December game]," Berube said. "That's not why my decision was to play him [Tuesday]. Mason played a bunch of games in a row, coming off back-to-backs, didn't have practice [Monday]. Ray is rested and he's ready to go."

The Flyers earned their day off Monday after a weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the rest of their season gets no easier when the Blackhawks start a run for the Flyers of 12 of 15 games to end the regular season against teams currently holding Stanley Cup Playoff spots.

"We're fighting for the playoffs right now," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "If you can't get up for these games there's something missing in your heart. We have to be emotional, be ready to skate [Tuesday]. Play the system. I think the biggest thing that happened this weekend was we played as a team. Everyone was together, everyone played the right way. We had a couple turnovers, and the only time we did, that's when they got their chances. So if we eliminate those we'll hopefully play a clean game [Tuesday]."

Here are the lineups the teams likely will use Tuesday:


Kris Versteeg - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell - Ben Smith - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Michal Handzus - Andrew Shaw

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Peter Regin

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Antti Raanta

Corey Crawford

Scratched: David Rundblad

Injured: Brandon Saad (upper body), Michal Rozsival (lower body), Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder)


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Vincent Lecavalier - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Steve Downie

Zac Rinaldo - Michael Raffl - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Ray Emery

Steve Mason

Scratched: Jay Rosehill, Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson


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