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NHL Chicago BlackhawksPhiladelphia Flyers

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers December 11 Game Preview

Antti Raanta

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For the Chicago Blackhawks, rivalries have become rather common. Becoming a perennial favorite and defending the Stanley Cup has put the Blackhawks in a position where they are targeted every game. And while the rivalry may be a bit overstated, tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers is a case of everything coming full circle.

The perfect example of just that is Flyers goalie Ray Emery. Although Emery was on the bench during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals that sparked this “rivalry” he later went on to win his lone Stanley Cup with Chicago last year.

Always a fierce competitor, Emery will return to the net on Chicago ice tonight but will not let a pregame reunion get the best of him. Emery told Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia “…It was a unique experience to win a Cup. And a really good team. That novelty kind of wears off after playing for a few teams.”

While Emery is between the pipes his change in scenery will likely make his life very difficult. Chicago has scored 12 goals in its past two games, boosting their NHL best 3.58 goals per game. Their power play has also improved and is now ranked fifth in the league at 22.9 percent. For their part, Chicago understands that a dominant puck possession offense is important to keeping goaltender Antti Raanta comfortable.

That being said, Philadelphia’s problem has been generating offense. Their leading scorer is Claude Giroux who has 20 points, exactly half of Blackhawks’ leading scorer Patrick Kane. Defensively, the Flyers are top-15 in goals allowed per game and are now top ten in penalty killing.

The Blackhawks can set the tone early by persevering through Philadelphia’s stingy defense and physicality and should not relinquish a lead if they can get it. Expect the Blackhawks to push the pace yet again and feel confident if they can enter the locker room after the first period with a lead. Philadelphia, thanks to their stagnant offense, ranks 28th in the league in winning percentage when trailing after the first period.

Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486