Flyers-Blackhawks: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Blackhawks: 5 things you need to know

And so it continues.

The Flyers (35-25-7) host the Chicago Blackhawks (39-15-14) in the third game of a 12-game stretch against teams in playoff position.

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Level elite
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman pens a column each week called “30 Thoughts.” It is one of the best reads of the week for hockey fans. In this week’s piece, Friedman praises the Flyers for the contracts of Sean Couturier and Matt Read, while also titling Couturier an “elite shutdown player.”

High praise from a well-respected media member, and how can anyone disagree with him after this weekend's sweep of the Penguins?

Couturier marvelously shut down Sidney Crosby, who was pointless in both games (only the second time in 47 regular-season games against the Flyers Crosby went pointless in back-to-back games).

At 21, Couturier's offensive game still hasn't peaked, but he has proven since he entered the league he is a strong defensive forward. He proved Saturday and Sunday he's among the league's best.

The Flyers will need Couturier against Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Blackhawks score goals and a lot of them. They lead the NHL in scoring, potting 3.32 goals per game. The Hawks tallied seven in their win over the Flyers on Dec. 11.

Couturier will have his hands full but he's capable of handling the challenge.

2. MVP watch
Claude Giroux had a terrible start to the season -- so bad some Flyers fans questioned his captaincy. He went the first 15 games without a goal and the first five without a point.

That feels like years ago, because Giroux is now among the top scorers in the league. With 69 points, Giroux is tied for fourth in the NHL with Tyler Seguin and Kyle Okposo.

Since Dec. 11, Giroux has the most points in the NHL -- 49 in 38 games. He has 23 points in his last 15 games. He had four in the weekend sweep of the Pens.

Giroux has more points than Patrick Kane (68), Alex Ovechkin (68), Corey Perry (67) and Evgeni Malkin (66).

The 26-year-old has carried the Flyers from in the basement after a franchise-worst start to second place in the Metropolitan Division.

He won't win the Hart Memorial Trophy, but you can bet he will be a finalist.

3. Remember me?
Everyone remembers Patrick Sharp in Philadelphia. He's the guy who netted the Flyers Matt Ellison. Pretty obvious who won that exchange.

Sharp: 218 goals since being traded to Chicago in 2005; two Stanley Cups (2010, 2013); one All-Star appearance; one NHL All-Star MVP; 2014 gold medalist with Team Canada.

Ellison: Seven career games with the Flyers.

Everyone knows that was a bad move, even Bobby Clarke.

Sharp is one of the game's finest goal scorers and he's at it again this year. The 32-year-old has 29 goals and five multi-goal games -- including two hat tricks -- this season. His 65 points are tied for 14th in points with San Jose's Joe Thornton.

When the Blackhawks scored seven against the Flyers earlier in the year, seven different players scored. Sharp was one of them, but he also contributed to two other goals. He finished with a goal and two assists.

The good news? He hasn't scored in six games, but that probably means he gets three tonight. The Flyers have to play tight defense when he's on the ice.

4. Special teams
One of the biggest reasons the Flyers swept the Penguins this weekend was the play of their special teams. The Flyers were 3 for 7 on the power play against a penalty kill in Pittsburgh that entered the weekend as the top unit in the league and left as the third-best.

But more impressively, the Flyers were 9 for 9 on the penalty kill against the NHL's top power play. The Penguins weren't able to get anything going on the man advantage. A lot of that had to do with Couturier and Read, but the entire units were dominant.

Since Feb. 1, the Flyers have killed 87.0 percent of their opponents' power plays.

They'll have another huge test tonight as Chicago enters as the third-best PP in the league, scoring at a 20.8 percent clip.

5. This and that
• The Flyers are 9-2-1 since the start of February and 31-15-6 since Nov. 9.

• Chicago will play its second game at the Wells Fargo Center since winning the 2010 Stanley Cup here. The Flyers beat the Blackhawks, 5-4, on Jan. 5, 2012 -- the last time Chicago was in town.

• Somewhat shockingly, the Blackhawks enter tonight's game in third place in the Central Division. They were atop the NHL in points for most of the season.

• The Blackhawks' 106 road goals are the most in the league, their 88 second-period goals are second to Anaheim and their 77 third-period goals are second to Boston.

• Flyers milestone watch: Vinny Lecavalier needs two goals for 400 in his career; Jakub Voracek needs three for 100 in his career; and Luke Schenn needs three points for 100 in his career.

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

TORONTO — First semester of college can often be a challenge for many students, but for Tanner Laczynski, the experience was a sweet one — literally. 

Part of Laczynski’s course load at Ohio State was “Chocolate Science.” According to the course website, students receive an “introduction to science and business of chocolate. Students develop and market a chocolate product as part of a virtual company. Students taste commercial products.” 

Laczynski, who plans to declare his major in business in his second semester, got a lesson in chocolates from around the world during the course. 

“Chocolate Science wasn't bad,” Laczynski said with a laugh a few weeks ago. “All I did was eat chocolate and write a paper about it. There's lots of different chocolate, and they all taste good.” 

Growing up 43 miles outside of Chicago in Shorewood, Illinois, Laczynski wasn’t a big football fan, saying there wasn’t much to cheer for with respect to the Bears, but since relocating to the Buckeye State, he’s taken up interest in the local team. 

“That's a big part of it,” Laczynski said of attending OSU. “I've been to two games, they haven't been the strongest opponents so kind of blowouts.” 

Laczynski was in the middle of a nap when the Flyers used their sixth-round pick to select him on the second day of the 2016 NHL draft. He was admittedly startled to be woken up by his parents, Ken and Dawn, along with sister Payton and brother Hayden.

“I'd just gotten back home from coaching some kids, it was early in the morning, came back, took a nap and my parents were all excited,” Laczynski said. “I was still tired from my nap, but woke up pretty quick. 

“They just kind of attacked me so I was kind of like, 'What's going on?' at first. That was unbelievable and it's a moment I won't forget."

After a quick phone call from his agent, Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor and John Riley, in charge of player development in Philly, were on the phone to welcome Laczynski to the club. 

This season, the 19-year-old had six goals and 16 assists in 15 games prior to leaving to join Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships.  

The under-20 tournament is the third time Laczynski has represented the U.S. internationally. He also wore Team USA colors for the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and the under-19 World Junior A Challenge.

Through the first six games at the world juniors, Laczynski tallied one goal and an assist. He missed the semifinals against Russia because of an illness but was in the lineup as the Americans defeated the Canadians 5-4 in a shootout to win gold.

Despite being just three months into his first year at OSU, the Flyers remain in constant communication with their prospect. 

“I talk to John Riley quite a bit, he's always in contact with me sending me game film and sending me clips of NHL highlights and stuff like that,” Laczynski said. “We keep in touch, it's a relationship and it's nice to keep in touch with him.”

During his freshman season, skating has been an area of focus for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward.

“I think my big thing is my first couple steps, just my quickness, stopping, getting back on it. I think that's my biggest thing,” he said. “Once I get that down, I feel like I have the speed, but just build an extra step, just improve on that, I think that'll be a tremendous help to my game.” 

Laczynski, who spent three seasons in the USHL prior to committing to the Buckeyes, said he tries to model his game after one-time Flyer Jaromir Jagr. 

“He's kind of the guy that I watched a lot just because of his puck protection and everything,” Laczynski said. “I try to kind of use my body to protect the puck down low and create some chances in the offensive zone. 

“He's got a really good stick — I try to watch that and have an active stick in the defensive zone and offensive zone, as well.” 

In his conversations with Riley and Pryor, the expectations for Laczynski are clear.

“Their goal for me is just to consistently play nine out of 10 nights instead of that seven out of 10 nights and get my game elevated a little bit more, play more consistently,” Laczynski said.

“I think that's the biggest thing.”

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone each scored twice to lead the Ottawa Senators over the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators, who won their fourth straight at Scottrade Center for the first time in team history. Mike Condon made 19 saves.

Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hutton made 18 saves.

Stone's third goal in four games at the 2:35 mark of the third period was the winner. Exactly a minute after Steen tied it, Stone stole Jaden Schwartz's pass to score his 14th goal of the season, giving the Senators a 4-3 lead.

With the win, Ottawa is currently in possession of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, leapfrogging the Flyers, who are idle this week (see full recap).

Stars hold on for 7-6 win over Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Dallas Stars gave up an early goal for the third straight game. However, this time they quickly bounced back, took two big leads and held on for a win.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves had a goal and two assists each and the Stars got a wild 7-6 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Dallas fell behind just 27 seconds in as Derek Stepan scored on the Rangers' first shot. On Monday, the Stars gave up a goal 19 seconds into a 4-1 loss at Buffalo, and Minnesota scored 1:19 into a 5-4 win at Dallas on Saturday night.

In this one, the Stars rallied and led 4-1 and 7-3 before pulling out their third win in nine games (3-5-1) (see full recap).

Dubinsky scores twice as Jackets beat 'Canes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brandon Dubinsky hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 9 at Detroit, a 17-game stretch during which he had chances but couldn't find the back of the net. The drought ended Tuesday night, maybe helping Columbus end a team-wide lull in the process.

Dubinsky scored in the second and third periods, Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist and the Blue Jackets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

The Blue Jackets got their third win in seven games since ending a 16-game winning streak and pulled even with Washington atop the unforgiving Metropolitan Division.

"We wanted to reset for sure," Dubinsky said. "We haven't played that well, obviously, in the last six or so games. We wanted to get back to the way we play,” (see full recap).

Matthews caps 3-goal burst, Leafs top Sabres
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin each scored in a nine-minute span in the second period and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Tuesday night for their 10th win in 13 games.

Toronto came back after trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes, getting its first victory this season when behind after one period (1-8-1).

It wasn't all rosy for the Leafs, though. Top defenseman Morgan Rielly left after the first period with a lower-body injury.

Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for Toronto, and James van Riemsdyk also scored.

Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane and William Carrier each scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson allowed four goals combined on 32 shots (see full recap).