If it feels as though the Flyers have looked like a revitalized team over their past two games, there might a reason for it.
“I think we’ve made a decision,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’re not going to quit no matter what. Regardless of what happens, we’re going to try to take care of our end, and see where the chips fall.”
Of course, in a word, the 2013 Flyers have been inconsistent. As they’ve unfortunately proven more than a few times this season, a short stretch of impressive play doesn’t mean they’ve turned a corner. That they’ve won back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers doesn’t mean they’re suddenly on track to a playoff berth. They're still in 11th place in the East, five points behind the eighth-place Rangers.
That said, things do feel a bit different in the Flyers' locker room these days. Players refer casually to the fact that they’re most likely facing a long summer, they’ve come to terms with the fact that they no longer control their fate.
It’s as if the mood shifted over the weekend as the Flyers headed up to Canada.
“I think playing in Buffalo and playing the way we did was pretty much a low for us,” Luke Schenn said. “We needed to respond in Montreal and play a lot better. It’s tough on the back-to-back nights, but we had great goaltending that night and it's nice to get a couple wins and get a bit of confidence back.”
While some fans continue to root against the Flyers, hoping they'll put themselves in a better position for a top draft pick this summer, the guys in the locker room right now have other things to fight for. Even if their playoff hopes are officially put to bed in the next few days, there will be no rolling over to the opposition.
“We play for one another on our team,” Simmonds said. “We’ve got a real tight-knit group of guys in here, we all want to see each other do well, and we’re going to play ‘til the last second – that’s for sure.”
Tonight, the Flyers will face a New Jersey team that’s winless in its last 10, since Ilya Kovalchuk left the lineup with injury. Nonetheless, the Flyers have struggled against the Devils this season, posting a 1-3 record in the series. This will be the final time these two teams play in 2013.
Mathmatically, both the Devils and Flyers are likely out of the playoffs this year. The Devils are a point behind the Flyers in 12th place, though they do have a game in hand. It’s a strange situation for these two teams, who are typically preparing for postseason runs at this point of the year, as opposed to facing off against each other as they fight to simply stay alive.
It very well could serve to ratchet up an already strong rivalry.
“I can’t speak for them,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “But I know we need to play a spirited game and be ready to battle and compete for the two points.”
Steve Mason wowed the Flyers, their coaches and their opposition in Tuesday’s win over the New York Rangers, in which he flat-out outperformed last year’s Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist.
But Mason will be on the bench against the Devils tonight, as Ilya Bryzgalov has been awarded the start in net.
“Both of our goaltenders have played real well lately, I think,” Laviolette said.
Knuble in, Rosehill out
Based on the drills at Thursday’s morning skate, it looks like Mike Knuble will take over Jay Rosehill’s spot on the fourth line against New Jersey.
Knuble has been a healthy scratch since the Flyers’ 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators April 11.
Rosehill, of course, received a two-year extension from the Flyers Wednesday evening.