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Flyers Travel To Chicago For Stanley Cup Rematch With Blackhawks

(Sports Network) - Nearly eight months after meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals, both the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks feature different looks -- one more so than the other.

The clubs also appear to be on opposite paths back to the playoffs and will meet for the first time since last year's championship round this afternoon at Chicago's United Center.

The Flyers currently have 67 points, tied with the Canucks for the most in the NHL and three more than the Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Last year, Philadelphia did not secure its seventh seed in the postseason until a shootout victory on the regular season's last day.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, ended the Red Wings' eight-season run as Central Division champions to secure the second seed, but currently find themselves eight back of Detroit in the division and seventh overall in the West.

That isn't too much of a surprise given Chicago's offseason roster overhaul that was necessary to relieve salary cap pressure. Since winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup title since 1961, the Blackhawks have lost via trade or free agency goaltender Antti Niemi, forwards John Madden, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg and defenseman Brent Sopel among others.

Chicago does still have Conn Smyth Trophy winner Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 at Philadelphia back on June 9 in overtime on Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton.

Like Niemi, Leighton won't be around for this rematch. After helping the Flyers finish off a historic rally from a 3-0 series deficit in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals, Leighton is currently playing for Adirondack of the American Hockey League as the Flyers have elected to go with the tandem of Brian Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in net.

Unlike the Blackhawks, the Flyers were able to make some offseason additions like defenseman Sean O'Donnell and Andrej Meszaros, and forward Nikolay Zherdev, and also return last year's leading scorer in the playoffs, Danny Briere, as well as bruising blueliner Chris Pronger.

Briere had 30 points in last year's postseason, one more than Toews, on 12 goals and 18 assists.

Last year's Cup victory also helped the Blackhawks reverse some losing trends versus the Flyers. Philadelphia picked up a 3-2 home win on March 13 during the regular season on Pronger's goal with 2.1 seconds left for its seventh victory in the last eight regular-season meetings.

The Flyers are 13-2-0 with a tie in their last 16 non-playoff meetings with the Blackhawks and have five victories and a tie in their last eight trips to the Windy City during the regular season. However, they dropped a 7-4 decision in Game 5 in their last game at Chicago.

Philadelphia is coming off just its second loss in 10 games, a 3-1 home setback to New Jersey on Saturday. James van Riemsdyk had the lone Flyers goal and Boucher made 19 saves.

The Flyers had a four-game overall win streak halted against the team with the fewest points in the East.

"The first [Devils goal] was a bad turnover," said Briere. "We got rid of the puck where we had time to make a play. On the second one, it was my line and we got caught leaving the zone a little too much and they were able to keep it in below the goal line."

With Boucher getting the call yesterday, the Blackhawks are likely to get their first ever look at Bobrovsky as they try to build off yesterday's 4-1 victory in Detroit.

Corey Crawford made 36 saves and Tomas Kopecky scored twice for the Blackhawks, who are 5-0-1 in their past six. Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland both ended with a goal and an assist and Bolland has five goals and three assists over a five-game point streak.

"When we play games like this against the top teams it's a boost for our confidence," said Crawford. "We just have to keep it going [Sunday] and build a streak."

Crawford has never faced the Flyers, while teammate Marty Turco is 1-2-0 with three ties and a 2.79 goals-against average versus them.