Coach Craig Berube didn’t give the Flyers much time to revel in their back-to-back weekend wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, he reminded his team of the risk of a letdown game -- something the Flyers simply can’t afford as they fight toward the playoffs.
“I think that it’s good to put it in their heads,” Berube said. “I did that immediately after the Pittsburgh game. We have to forget about that weekend and look forward to tonight. It’s important.”
Tonight at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers take on the Blackhawks, who shellacked them 7-2 the last time they met, Dec. 11 in Chicago. After a pair of intense wins over the rival Penguins –- and no Monday practice –- the Flyers risk hitting the ice without the requisite energy.
But they shouldn’t, according to Kimmo Timonen.
“We’re playing an even tougher opponent than Pittsburgh,” Timonen said. “If we’re not ready tonight, we’re going to get buried. There shouldn’t be any risk.”
Nonetheless, letdown games happen. The silver lining to facing a tough opponent like Chicago, though, is the Flyers' history with them. Rivalry helped them beat the Pens; history could help them against the 'Hawks.
“It was a pretty emotional couple of games,” Scott Hartnell said. “We definitely played two of probably our best games of the season, and we had to, to beat that team.
“Looking forward here, I don’t think it’s that hard to get up for a team like Chicago. A couple of us talked about 2010, what happened then. They’re a pretty darn good hockey team as well, so I think we’re gonna be emotional and fired up and skating tonight.”
Speaking of 2010, Patrick Kane remembers exactly where he was when he let off the shot that beat goalie Michael Leighton and won the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup.
“There’s an ad for a law firm or something like that now,” he said with a grin.
The Blackhawks were reminiscing about their Cup win all morning. Players said they do so every time they come to Philadelphia.
Turns out, the Flyers do too. Only they intend to use what happened four years ago in a different way.
“They’ve still got a lot of pieces of that team in their lineup,” Hartnell said. “I’m sure they have a lot of great memories of coming in to this building. It’s a little sad when you think about it. If you ask all of Philadelphia, they’re a little sad when these guys come to town. There will definitely be a lot to prove tonight.”
Emery vs. Raanta
Ray Emery will start for the Flyers for the first time since Feb. 8. He’ll be searching for his eighth win of the season.
But don’t read into the timing. Berube said Emery’s start has nothing to do with the fact that the Blackhawks are his former team -- or that he was in net for that aforementioned rough loss.
“Mase [Steve Mason] played eight games in a row,” Berube said. “[Emery] got healthy and looked good so that’s what I decided to do.”
Across the ice, the ‘Hawks will suit up Antti Raanta, who is 12-3-3 with a .904 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average.
The Flyers are a much improved team from the club who hit the ice in November and December. And they know it, too.
So what's been the biggest change?
“I think we’ve kind of changed our game a little bit,” Matt Read said. “We’re more focused on playing defense first and then letting the offense come. That’s what’s happened since the Olympic break, we’re playing very good defense, our D-men are doing a very good job back there, our goalies are playing well. If you take care of the defensive zone, the offense will come. It’s something that we’ve worked on and continue to worn on through these last 15 or so games.”
The Blackhawks, it might surprise you, have struggled in Philadelphia during the regular season for years.
The 'Hawks haven't won here in the regular season since Nov. 9, 1996, a nine-game losing streak.