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Wednesday Night Rivalry

Crunch time for Blackhawks, Flyers

Chicago chasing division lead; Philadelphia can move into playoff spot

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The Chicago Blackhawks are battling for first place in the Central Division. The Philadelphia Flyers are making a late-season push for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Each team will try to move closer to its objective by winning the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVA Sports).

The Blackhawks are trying to bounce back after three straight losses dropped them to third place in the Central behind the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. In contrast, the Flyers are surging. Philadelphia is 7-1-1 in its past nine games, including a 4-3 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. A victory against the Blackhawks will move the Flyers past the Red Wings and into the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

As the Flyers and Blackhawks keep pushing toward the playoffs, here are four players helping their teams make the climb:

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Flyers -- "The Ghost" has energized the Flyers and their fans. Though he began the season in the American Hockey League, Gostisbehere leads all rookie defensemen with 16 goals and 39 points in 50 games. Gostisbehere has three goals in the Flyers' past four games, is third on the team with seven power-play goals and is second in the League with four overtime goals. He's been a major reason for the late-season surge that has given the Flyers a chance to make the playoffs.

Video: DET@PHI: Gostisbehere's pass deflects past Mrazek

Steve Mason, G, Flyers -- Mason's up-and-down season is definitely on the upswing. He made 34 saves in the win against Detroit and is 4-0-1 in the Flyers' past five games, allowing 10 goals during that span. Mason was at his best in the third period against the Red Wings, stopping 20 of 21 shots to help the Flyers survive Detroit's comeback bid.

Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks -- Though he's gone three games without a point, Kane is still the runaway leader in the NHL scoring race. His 38 goals and 89 points are already career highs, as are his 15 power-play goals and seven game-winners. Kane is also a team-best plus-18, and his 246 shots on goal are by far the most on the Blackhawks.

Duncan Keith, D, Blackhawks -- No one on the defending Stanley Cup champions sees more ice time than Keith, who plays an average of 25:32 and makes Chicago's offense go. Keith has nine goals, including four game-winners, and 18 of his 42 points have come on the power play. The two-time Norris Trophy winner has been one of the NHL's most productive and durable defensemen since entering the League in 2005, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

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