Flyers focused on catching Rangers for 2nd place

ap-craig-berube-flyers.jpg

Flyers focused on catching Rangers for 2nd place

TAMPA, Fla. -- So how do the Flyers overtake the New York Rangers and steal second place in the Metropolitan Division from them?

If the Flyers win their remaining three games, they will finish with 97 points. They have a game in hand on New York, which can finish with 97 points but holds a tiebreaker.

If the Flyers win out and the Rangers split with a win and regulation loss or overtime loss, they can only finish with a maximum of 96 points, which gives the Flyers second place.

Second place means home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

“Home ice is important,” coach Craig Berube said. “We all know that.”

The Flyers may covet home ice but it’s not looking good, even though they will catch a break in one game on Thursday night against the Lightning because goalie Ben Bishop (37 wins) is injured and Anders Lindback (six wins) will get the start.

“Even though we made the playoffs, we don’t want to fall to the bottom where Boston or Pittsburgh is waiting there,” said Jakub Voracek.

“We got to make sure we keep winning these last three games and hope we catch the Rangers. We got to hold off the Blue Jackets first.”

Teammate Sean Couturier said these last three games come down to inner strength.

“Self-motivation is trying to catch the Rangers and get that home ice,” Couturier said. “We should use that as motivation to get three wins.”

The Flyers face Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Carolina to end the season, while New York has Buffalo and Montreal.

“You move forward and try to get home ice,” said Kimmo Timonen. “The better you play these last three games, it’s better for the playoffs.

“You can’t relax now just because you made the playoffs. It’s a great accomplishment for our team, but we move forward. Win [tonight], win Saturday, then win Sunday. That’s the key.”

Vinny Lecavalier, the seventh and newest member of the Flyers’ 20-goal club, has been saying all week the team's focus needed to be on catching the Rangers.

“You got to fight for position now and home ice is important,” Lecavalier said. “We got to make sure we finish strong.

“Every time we’ve had a big challenge this year, we came and played the way we should play. It doesn’t change. [This] is a big game, then go into Pittsburgh.”

He also said this is the time you build momentum for the postseason run. He referenced the Lightning’s 2004 run to the Stanley Cup against Calgary.

“When we won the Cup in 2004, we were 10th or 11th in December,” Lecavalier said. “We finished strong … we kept winning and building that confidence.

“It’s all about going into playoffs with confidence knowing you can go into any game and win a hockey game. We’re in a good spot.”

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Capitals

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Capitals

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day. ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could.