Flyers set to start crucial week against top rivals

Flyers set to start crucial week against top rivals

March 4, 2013, 7:30 pm
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There are times in the NHL schedule when teams have a week in which every game is more meaningful than usual.
 
Most seasons, you get a Western Conference road trip when a loss doesn’t impact you directly in the Eastern Conference standings.
 
Not this year.
 
Not with the lockout-shortened schedule that is entirely within your own conference. Every win and every loss have a significant overall impact.
 
This week, the Flyers play three teams they are battling their lives over for playoff positioning -- the Rangers, Penguins and Bruins.
 
“We realize where the schedule's at and they (players) understand how many games are left and what we need to do,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
 
“We haven't really talked about the rest of the season. We kind of kept it in the immediate future and within the month. Those are the things we talk about internally.”
 
Quite simply, the Flyers need to come back from Boston on Saturday having taken four of six points this week. Tuesday’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden represents a mental hurdle.
 
The Flyers have lost five straight at The Garden. Overall, the Flyers are just 1-8 in their last nine games against the Rangers.
 
“Well, every game against the Rangers is a big game,” Danny Briere said. “I think they’re right around us, a few points behind us in the standings.
 
“They have some games in hand. The rivalry makes it more fun. We all know what happened last year. We’re trying to rectify that.”
 
This week’s “Big Three” have a combined eight games in hand. Boston has four games in hand and the ninth-seeded Rangers, who are one point behind the Flyers, have three.
 
The Flyers need to win these three games in regulation so they are earning points and gaining ground without giving up either in return by having an overtime or shootout.
 
“They’re a solid team,” Wayne Simmonds said of the Rangers. “They all stick with the program. They all block a lot of shots and they make it tough for you to get to the net.
 
“Obviously, we’re going to have to battle through that. It’s going to be a good blue-collar game, and we have to be strong in the corners and strong in our defensive zone.”
 
It’s been a long, slow climb for the Flyers to get to .500. Now the task is getting well over that mark if the club is going to make the playoffs.
 
“We’ve dug ourselves out of the hole by playing .500 right now,” Max Talbot said. “Now it’s about playing good hockey in March and stepping up and moving forward.
 
“We’ve battled through a lot of adversity, whether it be injury, the way the schedule was, and in March, if you look at the number of games and travel, it’s a little bit easier.
 
“Look at the teams we’re playing against. They’re really good teams. Every game we have a little bit of time between games to focus and go out and play.”
 
As the schedule would have it, things begin with the Rangers. How apropos.
 
“Maybe down there at the Garden we haven’t played as well, but it’s a new season now,” Talbot said.
 
“We played one game there and lost. Tomorrow is a new game and we’re playing some good hockey.”

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