NHL Hockey

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Philadelphia 1 2 1 4
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11:00 AM PT12:00 PM MT1:00 PM CT2:00 PM ET18:00 GMT2:00 11:00 AM MST1:00 PM EST22:00 UAE14:00 ET15:00 BRT, October 4, 2019
O2 Arena, Prague,   Attendance: 17,463

Blackhawks, Flyers look for better fortune in Prague

Chicago Blackhawks at Philadelphia Flyers

  1. Friday's game is a Philadelphia home game, and the Flyers have won 15 consecutive regular-season home games over the Hawks. Overall, Philly has won the last three meetings between the clubs, outscoring the Hawks by a combined 10-2.
  2. The Blackhawks started last season well, going 6-2-2 in their first 10 games before a 6-18-3 stretch that included the firing of longtime coach Joel Quenneville. Chicago allowed 3.55 goals per game for the season, the highest figure for a Blackhawks team since 1989-90 (3.68).
  3. Since 2012, Philadelphia has alternated making and missing the postseason. The Flyers' last playoff series win came in 2012; since then, the club has gone seven straight seasons without advancing in the postseason, for the first time in franchise history.
  4. Since his debut season of 2007-08, Patrick Kane ranks third in the NHL in points with 938, behind only Alex Ovechkin (1014) and Sidney Crosby (994). He scored the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning goal against Philadelphia, but in his last three games versus the Flyers, Kane has no points and is a minus-6.
  5. Last season, Carter Hart was 16-13-1 with a .917 save percentage; the seven other goaltenders used by Philadelphia were a combined 21-24-7 with an .890 save percentage. Against Western Conference opponents last season, Hart was 8-1-1 with a .942 save percentage and 2.11 GAA.
  6. When the teams square off in Prague, it will mark the first time Philadelphia has ever played a regular-season contest in Europe. Chicago opened its 2009-10 season in Helsinki, facing the Panthers on October 2 and 3. That season ended with the Hawks in the Stanley Cup Final, which they won over the Flyers.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers are traveling a long way to begin what they hope will be the road back to the playoffs when they visit Prague, Czech Republic for their season opener on Friday.

The Flyers are coming off a 37-37-8 campaign that left them out of the playoffs for the fourth time in the past seven years. They replaced general manager Ron Hextall during the season and brought in veteran NHL coach Alain Vigneault in the offseason.

Vigneault said this week that opening in the Czech Republic hasn't made his job of getting his new team ready any more difficult.

"We're evaluating our group, putting them in different situations on the ice," Vigneault told reporters upon arriving in Prague. "Hopefully it won't be a long process, but sometimes it takes a little bit of time and obviously right now we're in that process of making the evaluations we need to make for this team to be successful."

That group includes newcomer Kevin Hayes, a 6-foot-5 center who scored 19 goals and 36 assists last season with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, as well as defensemen Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun.

Carter Hart, who posted a 2.83 goals-against average and .917 save percentage during his rookie season, is expected to start in net for the Flyers.

The Flyers' top line of captain Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek returns for the opener. For Voracek, a native of Kladno, the trip is a homecoming.

"What does it mean for me? That I get to see my family and friends," Voracek told reporters. "What does it mean for me and the team? That we are here to grab two points. Obviously, we want to have a good start. It didn't happen very often the last few years, so just want to dig in and make sure we show the Czech fans some good hockey."

The Blackhawks are looking to end a two-year playoff drought after finishing 36-34-12 last season.

Chicago underwent significant player turnover in the offseason, with the new faces including defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta, goaltender Robin Lehner and a group of depth forwards.

After the short NHL preseason, coach Jeremy Colliton will continue to put the pieces together as he begins his first full season behind the Blackhawks bench.

"We're going to learn way more in the first game than probably we learned in the whole first three weeks of preseason," Colliton told reporters. "I'm excited for that, and we'll just react accordingly, so that is exciting."

Chicago's top line of Alex DeBrincat, captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane accounted for 120 goals in 2018-19. The Blackhawks moved to ensure they'll be together beyond this season when they signed DeBrincat to a three-year, $19.2 million extension Thursday.

Scoring was not Chicago's problem last season, but the Blackhawks allowed the second most goals in the NHL.

The arrival of Lehner to team with veteran Corey Crawford, who missed more than two months of last season with a concussion, should improve those numbers dramatically.

"I think everyone's excited," forward Dylan Strome said. "I think there's good vibe around here. ... I think we're ready for a long season, hopefully a good season and obviously a team where we think we can make the playoffs. Lots of positive things heading into the season and we're ready to go."

-- Field Level Media

Updated October 3, 2019

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