VOORHEES, N.J. -- When the Flyers drop the puck vs. Carolina Sunday night, they will have a better chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft than making the playoffs this season (see game notes).
The Flyers have shown the ability to be a playoff team at times this season. Remember that 10-game win streak? That seems like an eternity ago for the Flyers, who have been aching to find any semblance of consistency in the months since (see story). Ever since the streak ended in mid-December, the Flyers' longest win streak reached just three games.
The problem is, they've also looked more like a draft lottery team recently.
At the center of the Flyers' consistency issues is captain Claude Giroux.
Giroux, along with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, underwent right hip and bilateral lower abdominal surgeries in May. The captain has put up just 51 points this season, on pace for his lowest total since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Giroux, as fans will surely tell you, simply hasn't been the same player this season. After Sunday's optional morning skate, Giroux opened up about getting over the mental hump of the surgery.
"When you try to make plays that you used to make and you can't really make them, it's frustrating and confusing, but when you start getting that confidence back, you know you can make those plays," Giroux said.
"It was new. You're trying to do the things that you know you can do and it's just not happening. You try and think a little bit too much of how you can be the player you want to be and it's not easy, but you just gotta work at it. I think it's more off-ice."
Giroux admitted it took some time for him to mentally get over his injury; to get out there and play and not worry about re-injuring the hip.
"I think when you don't think about that kind of stuff you just go out there and play the game, but when it's in the back of your mind, you kind of, you're not really thinking about the game," Giroux said. "You're mostly thinking about your hips or whatever. I think it's important just to kind of focus on the right things and even if you don't feel good out there, you got to find a way to be strong mentally."
With just 12 games to go in the regular season, and the Flyers seven seemingly insurmountable points behind Toronto for the second wild-card spot, Giroux says he has finally gotten his confidence back.
"Yeah, confidence, I think, is a big part of anybody's play. It's hard to get, but when you get it, you feel really good about it," Giroux said.
"I think when you feel a little bit more comfortable and you got that jump in your play, you feel a little bit more comfortable keeping the puck and you just try to make the right play out there."
With points in his last six games (two goals, four assists), Giroux is visibly more confident with the puck and back to his playmaking ways.
"I really noticed the pace and the speed of his game has been very good over the last 10 days, two weeks, it seems like he's been able to elevate a little bit there," coach Dave Hakstol said.
"The quickness and the speed and the pace of his game, both with and without the puck, I think has been at a little different level here recently."
But it's too little, too late for the Flyers, who have just a 0.6 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey Reference, and a 4.5 percent chance to get the draft's top pick, according to Tankathon.
Still, there are games left to be played, and the Flyers are holding on to whatever minuscule chances they have.
"Hopefully it starts with a big win tonight at home and then carries on throughout the road trip. We really have no choice left with 12 games, we gotta get hot and gotta go on a massive streak if we want to gain some points and squeak into the playoffs," Brayden Schenn said.
Steve Mason will start in net for the eighth time in nine games. Mason left Thursday's loss to New Jersey early in the third period with leg cramps. Mason says he "feels great" and is "not worried about the workload at all."
Defenseman Brandon Manning remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will sit vs. Carolina.
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Sean Couturier-Dale Weise
Matt Read-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Chris VandeVelde
D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Michael Del Zotto-Radko Gudas
Shayne Gostisbehere-Nick Schultz
G: Steve Mason