The Flyers seem to be putting their season on the line on the Island Tuesday night, knowing a loss in regulation would knock them seven points behind the Islanders – and at least five behind the Rangers — with just nine to play. And while it seems like every time they step on the ice the stakes are high, common sense says it’s true more now than before.
Currently 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with 37 points after a seven-minute meltdown in Winnipeg turned a 1-0 lead into a 4-1 loss, Peter Laviolette’s 17-18-3 club has a maximum gain of 20 points if it wins out. Reduce that two points for each loss in regulation or one if they fall in overtime or a shootout. And that’s not even factoring in the point or two going to the opposition, more often than not a team the Flyers are trying to run down in the standings.
Rather than focusing on the bleak math, the Flyers are better off going with that proverbial “one game at a time’’ mentality, in this case returning to a building where they embarrassed the Isles, 7-0, back on Feb. 18. The Islanders climbed out of an 0-2 hole to win the rematch, 4-3, here in a shootout.
Anything less than a regulation win Tuesday against the Isles, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, will make their ultimate task that much tougher.
“There’s a reason why they’re in the playoff race,’’ said captain Claude Giroux following yesterday’s practice. “They’ve been playing well. Offensively they can score a lot of goals, so we’re going to have to play disciplined defensively.’’
Having to once again go with a makeshift defense due to a flurry of injuries to the likes of Braydon Coburn, Niklas Grossmann and Andrej Meszaros, won’t make containing 23-goal scorer John Tavares & Co. any easier. While they remain out, Kimmo Timonen, who hurt his foot blocking a shot last week, figures to play.
On another front, Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to make his 23rd straight start in goal while new backup Steve Mason, who made his Flyer debut playing the third period in Winnipeg, is definitely going to stick around awhile. The 24-year-old Mason, a restricted free agent, signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract Monday.
One other player who may be on the way back is Danny Briere, who practiced for the first time since suffering a concussion March 23. No word when Briere, who’s missed eight games, will be cleared to play.
The Flyers can only hope that whenever he and the rest do return, it still matters.