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Flyers begin difficult stretch against Blackhawks

by Adam Kimelman

BLACKHAWKS (39-15-14) at FLYERS (35-25-7)


Last 10: Chicago 5-5-0; Philadelphia 7-2-1

Season series: It's the second and final time the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers will play this season. On Dec. 11, former Flyer Patrick Sharp had a goal and two assists and the Blackhawks won 7-2 at United Center.

Big story: It was a productive weekend for the Flyers, but they'll have to put that behind them to focus on a difficult upcoming schedule.

The Blackhawks welcomed one forward back into the lineup in their win Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings when Marian Hossa scored a goal in his. However, Chicago lost another important forward in Brandon Saad, who did not make the trip to Philadelphia due to an upper-body injury.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago's long search for a second-line center could be at an end as 2012 first-round pick Teuvo Teravainen soon could make his NHL debut. Teravainen's season in SM-liiga, Finland's top professional league, ended last week, clearing him for a shot to play in the NHL this season.

Teravainen, the 18th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, impressed at training camp in September, and not much changed during the 2013-14 season to alter those feelings among Blackhawks management. He had a team-high 44 points in 49 games for Jokerit, and had a tournament-high 15 points when he captained Finland to the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"I think he got stronger and better defensively [since training camp]," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I watched some of those World [Junior] Championship games, where he really looked like he was one of the top guys. He seemed to have the puck a lot, and I think his recognition offensively is really high-end. I think improving in his strength probably is another area that happened over the course of the year."

Quenneville said he and the rest of the staff would discuss where Teravainen fits for this season and the future.

"That's something we'll talk about," he said. "We saw what he's capable of in camp, and I guess there was some real good progression to his season as well, so you know, it could happen at some point."

Flyers: After their weekend sweep of a home-and-home set against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the schedule gets no easier for the Flyers, who will play the Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings in the next seven days.

In all, 12 of the Flyers' final 15 games are against teams that started the week holding a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That kind of challenge could be what this Flyers group needs. They seem to raise their level of play to match the opposition, which is what was seen in beating the Penguins. Facing such difficult competition, while making for tougher games, could be better than facing teams below them in the standings.

"We don't want to finish eighth or seventh," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after a 4-0 shutout win Saturday against the Penguins. "We want to finish higher. We want home-ice advantage. It's there for us to take but we have to keep playing like this."

Who's hot: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has goals in two straight games and five goals in the past five games. … Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds scored two power-play goals Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, setting a new single-season high for him and moving him to third in the League with 12.

Injury report: Saad and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (shoulder) are out for the Blackhawks. … The Flyers have no reported injuries.


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