By Lewis Gould
Okay, Flyers fans, you’ll have something to watch tonight for the first time in four days.
The Flyers (7-6-2) and Blackhawks (7-6-2) meet tonight at the Wells.
Chicago won the first meeting between the two teams with a 3-0 shutout on Nov. 1, thanks to a 35-save effort by goaltender Corey Crawford (7-5-0, 1.77 GAA, .945 save percentage).
Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas left that game after he took an elbow to the head from Brandon Saad, who was not penalized for the hit. Gudas, who leads the Flyers with 40 penalty minutes and had a club-best 280 hits, is expected to be back in the lineup after missing the previous two games with a head injury.
“He’s a big, physical presence back there,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere told the Inky. “He’s the heart and soul of our [defensive] corps. He plays the game in a hard, physical way, and I think we miss that a little bit. I don’t think too many guys want to dump the puck in his corner, and he’s a good presence on the penalty kill as well.”
The Flyers are still without rookie center Nolan Patrick, who sustained a head injury on Oct. 24 and is expected to miss his seventh straight game.
The Blackhawks are coming off Sunday’s 2-0 shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens and have just two goals in their last two games. That prompted coach Joel Quenneville to re-assemble a top line (Kane, Toews and Sharp) that was dominant in the 2009-10 season, when the team won its first of three Stanley Cups under Quenneville.
Kane leads Chicago with 14 points in 15 games, but has just five goals. Toews has four goals and 10 points, and Sharp has two goals and four points.
“Even if it’s something that’s not long term, if it’s just for the time being, we want to go out there and just play,” Toews told the Chicago Tribune. “The more chances we get, eventually something has got to go in for us. It’s a fresh start and hopefully the three of us can generate something.”
Saad, who leads the Blackhawks with six goals, is expected to play on a second line with Artem Anisimov and Richard Panik. Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman will be on the third line and Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels and John Hayden are expected to grind it out on the fourth.
Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling is expected to return after missing three games with an upper-body injury.
The Flyers are expected to start goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who dropped a 5-4 shootout to Colorado on Saturday. Neuvirth is 2-3-1 with a 2.17 GAA and .928 save percentage. Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott (5-3-1, 3.11 GAA, .892 SP) allowed two goals on 34 shots in the Nov. 1 loss in Chicago.