The Chicago Blackhawks are back home, and on the verge of history.
If the Blackhawks, though, are to tie the franchise record for the longest winning streak on Friday night, they must beat the Philadelphia Flyers - a team that has lost to Chicago once in 11 years.
With a 3-1 triumph over Vancouver on Saturday, Chicago (18-6-7) has won seven straight for the first time in almost 28 years.
“We aren’t getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we are having fun with this,” said Patrick Sharp, who scored his team-high 18th goal. “This is new territory for a lot of the guys in here. The playoffs are our goal but we are learning how to win games right now.”
The Blackhawks last won eight straight from Jan. 4-21, 1981, but beating Philadelphia presents perhaps their biggest challenge this season. Chicago has tallied only nine goals while dropping six straight to the Flyers, and is 1-12-0 against them since Dec. 12, 1997.
Continued production from Patrick Kane could help the Blackhawks end those struggles. He leads Chicago with 23 assists and 39 points, but returns to the United Center having scored in a season-high three straight games.
Kane tallied 21 goals last season en route to winning the Calder Trophy.
Sharp may also have some extra incentive to play well. He had 10 goals in two-plus seasons with the Flyers before they dealt him to Chicago in 2005. Since then, he’s scored 89 times, including a career-best 36 last season.
It’s not immediately known who will start in net for Joel Quenneville’s team, but Nikolai Khabibulin, 10-1-4 with a 2.44 goals-against average this season, has allowed eight goals while winning his last four starts against Philadelphia. Cristobal Huet hasn’t lost in regulation in four career regular-season starts versus the Flyers, but was 3-4 with a 2.93 GAA as Washington lost last season’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Philadelphia (19-8-7), which is opening a season-high six-game road trip, is coming off a 6-4 win over Ottawa on Tuesday. Jeff Carter scored his league-leading 26th goal as the Flyers won their sixth straight at home.
“When you’re winning games on a regular basis like we are, it makes everything easier,” said Carter, who needs three goals to match his career high set last season. “Everybody’s got confidence in this room.”
In his last 11 games, Carter has 10 goals - five on the power play - and eight assists. The former first-round pick has five multi-point games in that stretch, leading the Flyers to a 4-0-1 record. Linemates Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell also have been red-hot recently, with each totaling three goals and four assists in a three-game points streak.
But no one on the Flyers’ top line has been able to do much against the Blackhawks recently.
Carter has no points in two career games against Chicago, while Lupul has gone scoreless in his last five. Hartnell has just two goals in his last four games versus them, both in a 8-3 win on Jan. 5, 2007 when he was with Nashville.
Philadelphia has a winning road record (7-4-4), but is just 1-2-1 in its last four away from home and hasn’t scored more than two goals in any of those contests. The Flyers, who are third in the NHL with 122 goals, are two points behind the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers.