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Flyers meet Blackhawks in cross-conference battle

by Adam Kimelman
BLACKHAWKS (44-17-5) at FLYERS (35-27-4)
Last 10:
Chicago 7-2-1; Philadelphia 7-2-1
Season series:
This is the only meeting between the teams this season. The last time these teams met, Patrick Kane had a pair of assists and Dave Bolland and Brian Campbell had a goal and an assist each as the Blackhawks won 5-1 in Chicago on Dec. 26, 2008.
Big Story:
Who's in goal for the Blackhawks? Cristobal Huet will get the start Saturday and Antti Niemi likely will go Sunday, and coach Joel Quenneville will treat this weekend as a playoff audition.
The Flyers seem to have defensive issues of their own, which include the goaltending. They have allowed 20 goals in their six games since the Olympic break; they had allowed 18 in the 10 games before the break.
Team Scope:

Blackhawks --
With back-to-back games against Eastern Conference playoff teams this weekend, all Quenneville knows is that Huet will play Saturday in Philadelphia and Niemi will start Sunday at home against Washington.
"I think they've both got a chance to play," Quenneville told reporters Friday. "Hopefully they're both playing well and hopefully we have a tough decision to make. We feel they're both capable of getting the ball and taking charge. Both are likely to get a chance this weekend and we'll go off that."
Flyers --
Coach Peter Laviolette was not happy with how his team has been playing, especially offensively, and on Friday he switched around some of his lines.
The big changes were Jeff Carter skating with Ville Leino and James van Riemsdyk, and Claude Giroux centering Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere. Other lines featured Mike Richards centering Simon Gagne and Daniel Carcillo, and Blair Betts between Ian Laperriere and Darroll Powe.
"I liked the way we were playing going into the break," Laviolette said. "Since we've come back from the break, the game has been inconsistent. (Thursday), it was too loose and there wasn't enough commitment to the battles and the puck. It was really unacceptable this time of year. This is where we want to be tuning our game as we prepare (for the playoffs), and (Thursday) we didn't do that."
Who's Hot --
The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane has points in nine straight games, totaling 4 goals and 14 points. … Carter has 10 goals in his last 10 games for the Flyers, giving him 32 for the season, eighth-most in the League.
Injury Report -- For this time of season, it's remarkable that both teams are completely healthy.
Stat Pack --
The Blackhawks are second in the Western Conference at 3.21 goals per game, and second in the League in goals-against, at 2.39 per game. Their plus-57 goal differential is the best in the conference and second in the NHL only to Washington.
Puck Drop --
Laviolette wouldn't admit it, but with back-to-back games it's likely Brian Boucher will be in goal for Philadelphia Saturday.
That would be somewhat fitting -- the last time the Flyers beat the Blackhawks was Oct. 30, 2006, in Philadelphia. The losing goalie for Chicago that game? Brian Boucher.

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