Flyers set to begin crucial stretch against Penguins

Flyers set to begin crucial stretch against Penguins
March 23, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Their five-day hiatus has ended.
 
They had two days off and three days of fairly intense, competitive practices.
 
Now begins 18 games in 35 days to end the regular season, starting Sunday night in Pittsburgh against the formidable Penguins.
 
“We had a good week of practice,” coach Peter Laviolette. “It was really competitive. That is one thing you want to make sure when you leave a break.
 
“It was important to get the guys moving. We went over quite a few things. We wanted to make sure we are competing, as well.”
 
The really fantastic news for the Flyers is that during their entire time off, while they may have fallen in the Eastern Conference standings, they didn’t lose any ground.
 
The Flyers were five points behind the eighth seed after Monday’s loss in Tampa Bay and they remain five points behind on Saturday.
 
“You look at the standings and we’re five points away,” Max Talbot said. “We could be in way worse position. Five points is something we can look at and be happy about for sure.”
 
Every Flyers-Penguins game has an ice rink load of storylines. This one is fairly simple. The Pens are trying to become the first NHL club this season to win 12 in a row. Not even Chicago did that.
 
“For us, it’s about the two points,” Talbot countered. “It’s something, they are obviously playing well.
 
“Any time you can go out there and kinds mess them up, it’s extra. I don’t think we need that. We’re fighting for points. It’s about us right now.”
 
Indeed, the Flyers are trying to claw back into the playoff hunt. For them, it’s about putting a long win streak together. They have not won more than two consecutive games all season.
 
Pittsburgh has won 11 in a row.
 
“I didn’t even know to be honest they had the longest win streak,” Jakub Voracek said. “We can play them and play them good.
 
“We’ve done it before. We’ve been very good in their building and I think that is the biggest factor. They know that. They know that if there is one team out there that can beat them, it’s us.”
 
Indeed, the Flyers own the Penguins in CONSOL Energy Center, where they are 6-1 since the building opened.
 
Talk about intangibles, that’s one clearly in the Flyers' favor on Sunday.
 
“Just being in Pittsburgh is good enough motivation,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. “But they are playing well right now and we have to make sure we’re dialed in and ready to go.”
 
There’s additional motivation, as well. The Penguins overcame a three-goal deficit on March 7, to win 5-4 in regulation at Wells Fargo Center.
 
That represented the first time the Flyers lost in regulation after leading by three goals since losing 7-3 to Detroit on Jan. 17, 1993.
 
“That’s two points that got away,” Talbot said. “If we need any motivation for tomorrow, we can look at that.”
 
If the Flyers are going to make the playoffs, it has to begin with their third periods. They are just 1-6 when tied after two periods and 1-10 when trailing after two periods.
 
That falls on desire, competitiveness and a will to win at the end.
 
“It’s within our grasp,” Talbot said. “Tied or when we are losing after two periods we are not winning games. That is something that’s being mental sometimes.
 
“Last year, all these games we would win. This year, we’re losing them. But we [1-10] when losing after two periods. This is a matter of just winning one game coming from behind and then get on a roll.”
 
Easier said than done against the No. 1 team in the East, but if the Flyers have any hopes, it has to start against the Pens.
 
Loose pucks
General Manager Paul Holmgren and director of hockey operations Chris Pryor both scouted the Wild-Sharks game in Minnesota. Dan Boyle? At age 36, he has limited years left and the Flyers figure to be sellers, not buyers at the trade deadline. It’s more likely both of them are scouting the WCHA Tournament. ...  Sunday’s game is on NBCSN. ... The Flyers' odds of making the playoffs rose to 8.7 percent, according to sportsclubstats.com.