Five things to watch: Blackhawks host Ray Emery, Flyers

Five things to watch: Blackhawks host Ray Emery, Flyers
December 11, 2013, 5:30 pm
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The Chicago Blackhawks have looked more like themselves in their last two games. They’re back to scoring goals. They’re back to not allowing the opposition many goals, be it 5 on 5 or on the penalty kill. And tonight, they’re on the back end of a back-to-back.

When the Blackhawks face the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center tonight, they’ll be facing at least one familiar face: CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panacchio writes that former backup goaltender Ray Emery will start tonight against the team he helped win the Stanley Cup last season. Blackhawks fans are likely to give him a warm welcome, considering the goalie great tag team he had with Corey Crawford.

But that may be it for the warm-fuzzy moments. The Blackhawks want to add to their two-game winning streak – Antti Raanta will get the start again tonight. The Flyers want a positive end to a six-game road trip on which they’re currently 2-2-1.

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So while you all argue on which is better, Philly cheesesteak or Chicago Italian beef, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for tonight’s Flyers-Blackhawks game.

1. Stay out of the stinking penalty box.

The good news about the Blackhawks’ penalty kill is it’s working much better the past two games. Still, the Blackhawks have gone to the box more than they’d like; they’ve allowed 10 power plays in the past two games. Philly’s power play isn’t lighting up the scoreboard (19th in the league) but it’s still better than Florida’s (29th) and Dallas’ (30th). The Blackhawks don’t want to press their luck.

2. Watch out for Sean Couturier.

The Flyers have struggled to score goals this season (their average of 2.23 per game is 27th in the league) but Couturier has been hot as of late. The 21-year-old center has four goals and three assists in his past six games, with six of those points coming on this road trip.

3. Keep Emery busy.

Emery probably knows all the Blackhawks’ moves from his two seasons here, but show all those moves as much as possible. We all know what Emery is capable of doing. So do the Blackhawks. But if they have the same drive, moves and traffic that they’ve shown in their previous two games, they’ll beat their former backup.

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4. Keep that net-front presence going.

The Blackhawks’ power play has been more consistent this year, for certain, but it’s been very noticeable in their last two games. Credit a good deal of that to Andrew Shaw, who’s provided the screens, the tips and the general presence in front of the opposing goaltenders. Shaw isn’t afraid to get knocked around at the net; that’s good, because the Flyers will be trying to make them their personal piñata tonight.

5. Our pick to click tonight is Marcus Kruger.

We’re thinking this is going to be one of those nights where a fourth liner comes up big. Might as well be him.