Flyers vs. Devils – 7:30 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Flyers: 19-21-3 (Fourth in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)
Devils: 15-17-10 (Fifth in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference)
Ilya Bryzgalov made 27 saves and the Flyers came away with a 2-1 shootout win over the Devils in the last matchup between these two clubs. Max Talbot scored the Flyers' lone goal in regulation, while Matt Read and Claude Giroux each beat Johan Hedberg in the shootout. A major reason why the Flyers earned the victory was because of their play on the penalty kill. They killed off all five Devils power plays, but more importantly stopped a 5-on-3 situation in the first period with the game still scoreless.
Thursday will mark the fifth and final meeting between the Flyers and Devils this season. New Jersey has owned the 2013 series, taking three of the four contests and outscoring the orange and black by a 14-7 margin.
The Flyers received a strong performance from Steve Mason, who made 38 saves in his first home start at the Wells Fargo Center, and topped the New York Rangers, 4-2, on Tuesday. Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek each scored for the Flyers, who climbed to within five points of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Devils were shut out for a second consecutive game and fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-0, on Monday. Martin Brodeur turned aside 11 of 12 shots but it wasn't enough to keep New Jersey from losing its 10th game in a row. Phil Kessel was the only Leaf to beat Brodeur, before Jay McClement sealed the victory for Toronto with an empty-net marker.
Devil of a time
When the Flyers take the ice tonight, they will not have to worry about New Jersey's top sniper or two of the Devils' best defenseman. Neither Ilya Kovalchuk nor captain Bryce Salvador will play because of injuries and Anton Volchenkov will be serving the third game of a four-game suspension for elbowing Boston's Brad Marchand.
This is a huge break for the orange and black. Kovalchuk has lit up the Flyers for 10 goals and 20 assists since becoming a member of the Devils in February of 2010. It's also worth mentioning that New Jersey has not won a single game since Kovlachuk went down with a right shoulder injury on March 23 (0-6-4). The Devils have struggled to find offense with Kovalchuk out of the lineup. During their 10-game skid, the team has potted just 16 goals.
On the other end of the ice, the Flyers have a chance to keep their offense going with Salvador and Volchenkov absent from the Devils' blueline. After scoring just three goals during a four-game losing skid, the Flyers have gone off for 11 tallies in their last two contests combined. With New Jersey missing two key shut-down defenseman, the Flyers need to capitalize on this opportunity if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Entering tonight's game, the Flyers trail the Rangers by five points for the final postseason position in the East. The Devils are back six points for the eighth seed.
The Rangers, who have one game in hand on the Flyers, will also be in action. They host the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m.
Winnipeg and Buffalo -- the two teams ahead of the Flyers and Devils -- are also in the hunt for a playoff position, but are idle on Thursday.
Keep an eye on ...
Look for Jakub Voracek to come out strong against the Devils. The 23-year-old has been one of the few bright spots for the Flyers this season and has been playing with a ton of confidence alongside Claude Giroux. In the win over the Rangers, Voracek collected his 19th goal, a new career high, with an empty-net tally. With 43 points in 2013, he trails only Giroux (44) for the team-lead in scoring.
One Devil that always seems to hurt the Flyers is Patrik Elias. The veteran forward has faced the orange and black 80 times in his career. In those games, Elias has registered 35 goals and 45 assists. It's been the same story in 2013 as Elias has two goals and three assists in the four meetings between the two bitter rivals.
Did you know?
The Devils have not gone winless in 11 straight since an 0-7-4 slide in the 1990-91 season.
Flyers: Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder), Braydon Coburn (separated left shoulder), Nicklas Grossmann (concussion), Bruno Gervais (abdominal surgery), Kent Huskins (concussion), Max Talbot (broken left leg), Zac Rinaldo (high left ankle sprain) and Jody Shelley (left hip) all remain sidelined.
Devils: Kovalchuk (sprained right shoulder) and Salvador (bruised right wrist) will not play against the Flyers and could miss the remainder of the season if New Jersey falls out of playoff contention.
Will the Flyers hand New Jersey its 11th straight loss tonight? Explain why or why not below.