It gets tougher: Blackhawks next for Flyers

Posted: March 19, 2014

After dispatching the Metropolitan-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on consecutive weekend days, the Flyers face a healthier, more dangerous opponent Tuesday night, hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

The task doesn't look as daunting because of the momentum built by the Flyers' 4-0 and 4-3 wins over a Pittsburgh team that was shorthanded because of injuries to five key players.

"We need to keep going as a team and move forward," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who has eight points and is plus-6 in the seven games he has played since helping Finland win a bronze medal in the Olympics. "This weekend shows we can play with anyone if we play as a team and we work and every line is doing their job."

The Blackhawks, who will be playing at the Wells Fargo Center for just the second time since they won the Stanley Cup there in 2010, lead the NHL with 231 goals. They have lost their last nine regular-season games in Philadelphia since 1996.

Chicago (39-15-14) had lost six of its previous eight games before Marian Hossa collected a goal and two assists in its 4-1 win over Detroit on Sunday. Hossa had missed the previous five games with an undisclosed injury.

The right winger "changes the complexion of our team game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune. "We seem to have the puck a lot more when he's out there. It made a big difference having him back."

Quenneville will be seeking his 700th career win Tuesday. Chicago, however, will be without versatile winger Brandon Saad (19 goals, plus-29), who was injured Sunday.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason is expected to make his ninth straight start. In the wins over the weekend, the Flyers (35-25-7) kept the Penguins' scoring chances to a minimum.

"Defense is going to be the key to our success for the rest of the year," winger Wayne Simmonds said.

On Dec. 11, the Flyers were routed in Chicago, 7-2, as ex-Blackhawk Ray Emery allowed six goals on 18 shots and was yanked. Former Flyers Patrick Sharp (goal, two assists) and Kris Versteeg (goal, assist) aided the Blackhawks, who used a 5-1 second period to emphatically wipe out a 2-1 deficit.

"The first period we played all right, and then in the second period they gave it to us," center Sean Couturier said. "That's past. That's behind us and we just have to focus on the next game and get a good start.

"It's a good test to see where we are at."

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