Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia Flyers are just five points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot heading into Tuesday night’s slate of games.
Following a 4-1 beatdown of the Metropolitan Division’s second-place New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum, which has proven to be one of the tougher places to play in the NHL this year, Philadelphia continues to roll under interim head coach Scott Gordon.
Following a 12-15-4 start under Dave Hakstol, the Flyers made the change behind the bench in an attempt to turnaround the season. After all, it was early December and there was time to piece together a playoff push.
The problem was, things started horrendously under Gordon as the Flyers lost 10 of his first 14 games, a stretch that looked to end the season shortly after the calendar flipped to 2019.
But a resilient Flyers team — which saw Gordon clearly define the roles of every single player on the roster — finally jelled just before the All-Star break, reeling off eight-straight wins from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4.
On a grander scale, the Flyers have won 16 of their last 21 games as they’ve climbed to 10th place in the East with 72 points. They’ve managed to maintain a high level of play despite trading away one of their glue guys in veteran Wayne Simmonds, who was dealt to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25 for Ryan Hartman and a draft pick.
Separating them from the final postseason spot, currently occupied by the Pittsburgh Penguins, is the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have 75 points. It’s a reasonable deficit to overturn, especially with 16 games remaining.
The final stretch gets off to a difficult start on Wednesday night when the Flyers host the defending Stanley Cup-champion and Metro-leading Washington Capitals.
It doesn’t help that the Flyers are dealing with injuries to a number of vital players though, which is only going to make the up-hill trek more difficult in the final weeks of the regular season.
Goalie Carter Hart, who has missed the last four games due to a lower-body injury, could re-join the team for morning skate on Wednesday. Hart has played a crucial role in Philadelphia’s resurgence, supplying consistent goaltending over the Flyers’ successful stress.
Over his last 15 games, the 20-year-old was 11-4-0 with a .920 save percentage.
Right winger Jakub Voracek, who is third on the team with 59 points, will miss Wednesday night’s game against Washington due to a lower-body injury. The knock sidelined him for the first time in 242 games on Sunday.
“Jake will see the doctor [Wednesday] to be re-evaluated,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “We hope to get him back on the ice by Thursday.”
Nolan Patrick was listed by Fletcher as a possibility to play on Wednesday night after taking a puck to the face against the Islanders.