Win and the playoff odds improve.
Lose twice to the Devils, and it’s over.
“If you check the standings, they are four points ahead of us,” goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of the Flyers' week ahead. “And they have a game in hand.
“You win both games, you’re tied with them. And you have a good chance to continue to battle for the playoffs. If you lose both games, you’re done. That’s it.”
Usually, coach Peter Laviolette doesn’t see things as "life or death" circumstances and doesn’t place more importance on one game over another.
Yet even now he realizes that after last week’s “0-for” against the Rangers, Penguins and Bruins, the Flyers are pretty much out of free passes to get back into the playoff chase.
“We’ve got to start with one [win], it’s a real important week for us,” Laviolette said. “I don’t like to coach two games – you can’t play both games, just one. Bryz has a valid point.
“It’s a big week facing the Devils. If you look at the standings, there are teams we need to be successful against.”
New Jersey holds the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with 29 points – four points more than the Flyers. The Devils also have a key game in hand.
The Flyers play Wednesday and Friday against them. No other games. Plenty of practice time. Ample rest.
Laviolette said there is no excuse for his team not to have a keen sense of urgency about the task at hand the entire week.
“There aren’t any excuses and there will be no excuses if we don’t,” he said. “We’re coming off a day off. A good practice today where we worked on a lot of things. We’re going in with a lineup that’s ready to play.
“Sometimes the schedule presents five games in seven days and two are back-to-back ... to maintain that focus and urgency. But it [focus] can be a little more pointed this week, looking at the schedule, practice and where we’re at. ... That urgency should be there.”
This is one of those weeks where both teams can look at each other and say, "they’re struggling."
The Devils have not played well since losing goalie Marty Brodeur to a back injury. The Flyers have been inconsistent all season and haven’t won more than two in a row yet.
“You do the math, it’s a huge couple games for us,” Scott Hartnell said. “If we come out the way we did against Buffalo, flying and hitting, everything like that, we’ll like where we’re at, at the end of the night.”
There are some line changes. Danny Briere will go on Sean Couturier’s line with Simon Gagne while Matt Read moves up to Brayden Schenn’s line with Wayne Simmonds.
This is the third straight time the Flyers meet the Devils at Prudential Center, where they are 0-2 this season.
“It’s a huge two games and we said that last week about the three games and were 0-for-3,” Briere said. “We’re putting ourselves in a tougher and tougher position every week.
“If we had done well last week, we could probably say we’d be happy with a split [this week]. We need to win both games. We haven’t played well in that building and we have to break that trend.”
So it’s win or else?
“They’re must wins,” Max Talbot said. “We have to start some winning streaks that last all week where we win five of seven. That’s the result we need to get back into playoff position.”
New Jersey is 3-6-1 in its last 10 and likely see this as a defining moment to put some distance between itself and the Flyers.
So the Devils’ state of mind figures to be identical to the Flyers.
“They’re probably looking at it the same way and that lends itself to be a great hockey game,” Laviolette said.
Win and the playoff odds improve.