Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 10/21/14 @ CHI



Steve Mason is starting in goal tonight for the Flyers. Corey Crawford is out of the lineup for Chicago with an upper-body injury. Antti Raanta will start in net. The lineup is updated below.

****************** FLYERS @ BLACKHAWKS PREVIEW

Looking to build on a comeback victory in the first game of a three-game road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers (1-2-2) are in the Windy City tonight to take on the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks (3-0-1).

Game time is 8:30 p.m. EDT. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network and locally on Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia.

This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season, and the lone clash in Chicago. The clubs will meet again on March 25 at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers are right back in action tomorrow night with another marquee matchup, traveling to western Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Saturday, the Flyers return home to the Wells Fargo Center to play the Detroit Red Wings. 2013-14 season series

The Flyers and Blackhawks split two games last season. Both clubs won on their home ice.

On Dec. 11, 2013, the Flyers were embarrassed by a 7-2 count on a night where they simply could not stop the bleeding against their high-powered hosts. Things went fine for Philly in the opening period. Thereafter, the wheels fell off the wagon.

The Flyers outshot the Blackhawks by a 10-6 count in the first period and skated off to the locker room with a 1-0 lead. The final 40 minutes saw the Hawks — who had laid a 6-2 whipping on the Dallas Stars the previous night — use their speed and precision puck movement to pick the Flyers apart. Compounding the problem was the fact that the Flyers abetted Chicago in the process by losing their discipline.

Starting goaltender Ray Emery, who gave up six goals on just 18 shots, had no chance on at least four of the Chicago tallies. Steve Mason yielded one goal in five shots worth of third period mopup work.

In this game, the Flyers went 5-for-7 on penalty kills and 2-for-5 on the power play with a backbreaking shorthanded goal allowed. Jakub Voracek and now-former Flyer Steve Downie notched goals on the man advantage in the first and second periods respectively.

On March 18 in Philadelphia, the Flyers recovered from an early 2-0 deficit to win in overtime. Emery was strong in goal, earning the win. A pair goal by then-Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell pulled the Flyers even in the game. Claude Giroux scored the dramatic game-winner in the final five seconds of overime.

Giroux’s goal, hammered through the legs of defenseman Duncan Keith and past goaltender Antti Raanta — all while being shot as the puck was not laying flat — was one of the most spectacular goals scored by the Flyers last season. Flyers outlook

The Flyers are coming off a seesaw 6-5 overtime win in Dallas on Saturday night to collect their first win of the 2014-15 regular season. For the third fourth time in their five games to date, the Flyers trailed in the third period and came back to tie the game. For the third time, the Flyers rallied back from a multi-goal deficit.

Philly trailed 1-0 before goals by Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn sent them off to the first intermission with a 2-1 lead. In the second period, three fatal defensive breakdowns by the Flyers enabled the Stars to grab a 4-2 advantage. In the third period, the Flyers rallied back for a power play goal by Andrew MacDonald and an even strength goal by Jakub Voracek to tie the game at 4-4.

The tie game didn’t last long, as Jason Spezza scored to put Dallas ahead 5-4. Undaunted, the Flyers re-tied the game at 5-5 on a Michael Raffl shot that deflected into the net off Stars’ defenseman Trevor Daley. The Flyers had two power play opportunities in overtime, cashing in on the second to win the game on a Claude Giroux goal.

For the second time in his four starts to date, Steve Mason was the victim of horrific defensive breakdowns that made his stat line for the game (14 saves on 18 shots) look much worse than he actually played. Ray Emery (4 saves on 5 shots) earned the win in relief, as the Flyers dominated the third period and overtime.

The Flyers hope to have Braydon Coburn (lower body injury) back in the lineup tonight. Officially, he is a game time decision. Coburn did not feel quite ready to play on Saturday and was held out as a precaution. Coburn, who wore a walking boot on his left foot in the pressbox on Saturday, has missed the last four games since suffering an injury on opening night.

Vincent Lecavalier (left foot) remains out of the lineup for the Flyers. On Saturday’s game, the Flyers inserted callup forward Chris VandeVelde into the fourth-line center spot. Blair Jones shifted from fourth-line center to fourth-line right wing. Jason Akeson was a healthy scratch.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare continued to skate in Lecavalier’s place, centering the second line. The 29-year-old French forward nearly registered his first NHL point in Saturday’s game, but hit the post on a shot that beat Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

Voracek has quietly assembled a five-game point streak to start the season. Both he and Giroux have compiled two goals and five assists for seven points to date. The team’s best player on a game-in and game-out basis has been Wayne Simmonds, who has racked up five goals and seven points.

With the Flyers playing on back-to-back nights, head coach Craig Berube may split the goaltending chores over the next two games. Since former Blackhawks goaltender Emery got the call in both games against Chicago last season, he may start tonight.

Entering Saturday’s game, the Flyers had been 9-for-10 on the penalty kill for the young season. However, the Stars struck twice in three opportunities. Heading into Dallas, the Flyers power play had connected on five of 17 chances (29.4 percent). They added two more power play markers in five opportunities against the Stars to bring their season totals to a robust 7-for-22 (31.8 percent efficiency).

The Flyers showed improved five-on-five play for segments of the Dallas but even strength play remains the team’s biggest weakness over the balance of the young season. Philadelphia has been outscored at even strength by a 15-10 margin through five games. Blackhawks outlook

The Blackhawks enter tonight’s game coming off a 2-1 home overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya and Nashville defenseman Shea Weber (power play) traded off first period goals. The score held through the remainder of regulation as Predators goaltender Carter Hutton (35 saves on 37 shots) and Chicago’s Corey Crawford (19 saves on 20 shots) slammed the door. Finally, with 1:34 remaining in overtime and Nashville on a power play, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews brought the game to an end with a dramatic shorthanded goal.

The Blackhawks have done most of their damage this season at even strength. While the power play has connected on a modest three of 21 opportunities (14.3 percent) and allowed a shorthanded goal, the Hawks have racked up an impossible to sustain 2-to-1 ratio for five-on-five goals scored to goals against. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have killed off 13 of 15 penalties (86.7 percent) with two shorthanded goals scored.

Fomer Flyers forward Kris Versteeg (lower-body injury) returned to practice yesterday and is expected to be in the lineup tonight. It is expected that Brandon Saad will move from the second to the third line, where Brad Richards (zero points) has struggled in the early going. Jeremy Morin may be a healthy scratch tonight. Projected lineups (Subject to change)


12 Michael Raffl – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

10 Brayden Schenn – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 17 Wayne Simmonds

18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read

36 Zac Rinaldo – 76 Chris VandeVelde – 41 Blair Jones

47 Andrew MacDonald – 5 Braydon Coburn

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 22 Luke Schenn

35 Steve Mason

[29 Ray Emery]

Scratches: Vincent Lecavalier (left foot), Jason Akeson (healthy), Nick Schultz (healthy).


10 Patrick Sharp – 19 Jonathan Toews – 81 Marian Hossa

23 Kris Versteeg – 65 Andrew Shaw – 88 Patrick Kane

29 Bryan Bickell – 91 Brad Richards – 20 Brandon Saad

13 Dan Carcillo – 16 Marcus Kruger – 28 Ben Smith

2 Duncan Keith – 7 Brent Seabrook

4 Niklas Hjalmarsson – 27 Johnny Oduya

57 Trevor van Riemsdyk – 32 Michal Rozsival

31 Antti Raanta

[50 Corey Crawford]

Scratches: Jeremy Morin (healthy), David Rundblad (healthy).

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