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Flyers and Hawks begin showdown for the Cup

by Dave Lozo /


Season series -- In their only meeting, the Flyers earned a 3-2 win at Wachovia Center on March 13. The Blackhawks held a 2-1 lead in the third period, but Scott Hartnell tied the game with 2:04 left and Chris Pronger won it with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Michael Leighton made 39 saves for the Flyers, while Cristobal Huet stopped 31 shots for the Blackhawks.

Big story -- It's the second-seeded Blackhawks, who beat three teams with at least 100 points in the regular season to reach the Final, against the seventh-seeded Philadelphia Flyers, who beat the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Blackhawks are the favorites, but the Flyers have shown they can't be counted out after erasing a 3-0 series deficit against the Boston Bruins in the second round.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- They've won eight of nine and swept the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. The top line is clicking, goaltender Antti Niemi is on fire, Dave Bolland's line as been keeping the opposition's best scorers under control, and everything seems to be coming up Blackhawks during the playoffs.

But the players aren't looking at themselves as heavy favorites who will walk over the underdog Flyers.

"They're going to be a tough team," Blackhawks sniper Patrick Kane said. "They're really similar to us in a lot of ways. They've got a lot of depth up front. They've got some big shooters back on defense and some guys that can shut you down, too.

"So I think it's going to bode really well for a really good series and really exciting, too."

Flyers -- They've overcome more obstacles than an "American Gladiators" contestant. Injuries to forwards, defensemen, goaltenders. A coaching change. Having to win the final game of the regular season (in a shootout) just to make the playoffs. A 3-0 deficit in their series against the Boston Bruins.

"Coming down the stretch we gained a lot of confidence," forward Danny Briere said. "That's one thing now, we do know that we can come back. And I remember there was stats, I think we finished close to last in the NHL when we fall behind, after a period, after two periods. I think we were last coming into the Playoffs or the bottom of the League anyway.

"And for some reason, in the playoffs. it's been a total turnaround."

"It's amazing, if you think about it," said forward Simon Gagne, who was thought to be lost for the playoffs when he suffered a foot injury in the first round against the New Jersey Devils. "But the whole time we believe that team was good enough to be here."

Who's hot -- Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is riding a 13-game point-scoring streak. Patrick Kane, who rides shotgun on Toews' line along with Dustin Byfuglien, has points in 14 of his 16 playoff games.

Flyers right wing Claude Giroux has 3 goals and 5 assists in his last seven games. Goaltender Michael Leighton three shutouts in his last five games.

Injury report -- Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd (undisclosed injury) will likely sit out Game 1 but coach Joel Quenneville said he expects him back at some point during the series. Flyers backup goaltender Brian Boucher said he's "99 percent" sure he'll make his return to the lineup for Game 1 after spraining both knees during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Stat pack -- There are just four Cup winners on both teams: The Blackhawks have John Madden, Andrew Ladd and Tomas Kopecky, who could draw into the lineup with Ladd out. The Flyers have defenseman Chris Pronger. … The Flyers are 13-2-0 against the Blackhawks in their last 15 meetings and have won the last eight in Philadelphia.

Puck drop -- "It is a really interesting situation. Really unique. I really hope so. This is the time, definitely want to win this time, and being in the Finals, definitely want to touch the trophy." -- Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, who is playing in his third straight Stanley Cup Final after getting there and losing with Detroit last year and Pittsburgh two years ago.

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