Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has gone to great lengths to keep former Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews on separate lines, preferring balance as opposed to pinning his hopes on one group. After seeing his team score more than three goals just once in its last 13 games, Quenneville is pairing the two superstars with Patrick Sharp on a potent line against the host Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
That line excelled during the 2009-10 season as well as a memorable 2013 second-round playoff series versus Detroit, and Quenneville is bidding that the trio can recreate the magic. “We still feel there’s enough offense in our group here that they can recapture it,” Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times. “If one line can score, maybe the next line gets ignited.” While no one scored as Chicago was blanked by Montreal on Sunday for its fourth loss in six games, Philadelphia is hardly sitting pretty after suffering its fifth defeat in seven outings with a 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado on Saturday. The Flyers look to get back on track and extend their regular-season home winning streak over the Blackhawks to 14 games on Thursday, although Kane and the Blackhawks skated away with the Stanley Cup in Philadelphia during a Game 6 triumph in 2010.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TVAS, NBCSN Chicago, NBCSN Philadelphia
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (7-6-2): Toews scored in the second period, Kane had an assist and Corey Crawford turned aside all 35 shots he faced in Chicago’s 3-0 win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1. The 28-year-old Kane has flustered the Flyers throughout his career, recording 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 12 career regular-season encounters. Crawford hasn’t been as fortunate with a 2-3-0 mark versus Philadelphia, the same record he has in his last five games overall despite yielding just five goals in that span.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (7-6-2): Physical defenseman Radko Gudas (team-leading 40 penalty minutes) is expected to return to action for the first time in a week after receiving an elbow to the head from Chicago’s Brandon Saad. “He wins battles in front of the net ... and he’s a shutdown (defenseman),” said goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who - for full disclosure - is engaged to Gudas’ sister. “He’s a unique player and we need him. He’s strong, he has a good shot, and he’s our most experienced.” Neuvirth, who has sandwiched tough outings around his lone shutout of the season, is expected to get the start versus a Chicago team against which he owns a 2-2-0 mark with one shutout in five career encounters.
1. Philadelphia has permitted the first goal in five of its last six games.
2. Chicago D Gustav Forsling (head) is expected to end a three-game absence on Thursday.
3. Flyers F Nolan Patrick, who was the second overall pick of the 2017 draft, will sit out his seventh consecutive contest with a suspected concussion.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Flyers 2