NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Flyers earned their first victory of the season with a 6-5 overtime win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. It was a first step they’ll try to build off of tonight, but Chicago is never an easy opponent.
The Blackhawks are 3-0-1 to start the season and goaltender Corey Crawford has been particularly effective with a 1.66 GAA and .926 save percentage. The Flyers best bet to overcome that might be with their special teams.
UPDATE: Crawford’s out with an upper-body injury, so Antti Raanta makes his season debut tonight.
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“If we can get our game going five-on-five and draw some penalties on them, then we can go to work on the power play,” said Wayne Simmonds, per CSN Philly.
Philadelphia is off to a hot start with the man advantage, capitalizing on 31.8% of its opportunities. At the same time, the Flyers have been one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to killing penalties, so they’ll need to play a disciplined game. That’s something they haven’t been known for traditionally, but this year might be different as they’ve been charged with the least minor penalties in the league thus far (12).
They’ll also be looking to forward Jakub Voracek to play a big role in beating Crawford. He’s on a five-game point streak to start the season and is currently tied for the team-high with seven points in 2014-15. That’s in stark contrast to the slow start he endured last season.
“This is better than last year,” Voracek said. “I think I had [four] points in 15 games. If I’m scoring and producing, we’re going to be scoring more goals and have a better chance to win the game.
“That’s what they are expecting of me. I’m getting a lot of minutes on the ice, a lot of responsibilities. It’s my job to make a difference in the game.”
Of course, beating Crawford is one thing, but the Flyers also need to play solid defensively. They’ve allowed 3.80 goals per game, although it might be a challenge for the Blackhawks to fully exploit that as their offense hasn’t started firing on all cylinders yet.
It will help Chicago that former Flyers forward Kris Versteeg seems set to make his season debut tonight. He’s projected to play on the second line with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane while Brandon Saad will slide to the third line. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville felt the Kane line has left something to be desired so far.
“I haven’t seen possession,” Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “They’ve had more shifts in their own end the last few games. I didn’t mind them the first few games but the last two haven’t been as effective as we’ve seen.”
We’ll see if the return of Versteeg helps spark them. If it does, the Flyers’ task of turning their victory against Dallas into the start of a winning streak will be all the more daunting.