Philadelphia Flyers: Out of the break and into the fire

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With their nine-day layoff coming to an end on Friday, the Philadelphia Flyers have to hit the ground running to secure a badly-needed playoff spot.

The Philadelphia Flyers have looked very good at times this season. At other times, they’ve looked very bad. As a result of their uneven play, they currently sit in 10th place in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference, a single point out of the last playoff spot.

Now, with 32 games in 65 days to close the season, the room for error is thin and the list of excuses is short. They must carry over some of the strong play they’ve exhibited while cutting the mistakes and slumps to a minimum.

More from Philadelphia Flyers

All the while, they’ll be tested physically and mentally during this two-plus month grind. On six remaining occasions, they’ll have to play on back-to-back days, which will bring their season total to a league-leading 17 such instances. The schedule makers didn’t do them any favors, but they still have to execute.

And right out of the gate, they’ll be tested with one of those back-to-back sets as they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and then come straight home to host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

If your memory is good enough, you’ll recall that the Flyers thoroughly beat the Penguins 3-0 in the teams’ last game before the all-star break/bye week. It was honestly shocking to see Sidney Crosby and company get completely neutralized in the game, held to just 19 shots by the Flyers.

But Pittsburgh will be sufficiently motivated on Friday to start their “second half” strong, and the Flyers will no doubt face much more of a push from them than they did in their last meeting. It will be a big challenge.

Then, just 24 hours later, the Flyers will face an Avalanche team who will be playing their first game since January 20. This could go one of two ways: either the Flyers will have the “jump” against a rusty Colorado team or they’ll be fatigued from the night before and ripe for the picking by a club with a ton of energy.

Or maybe it will just be yet another tough game against a good team, regardless of who’s playing on short rest and who isn’t. Again, the Flyers need a strong showing to avoid going 0-2 to begin this critical stretch.

The team can at least be encouraged that they’re slowly getting healthy. Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick, of course, still remain out. But Shayne Gostisbehere (missed the last seven games) and Michael Raffl (missed the last game before the break) are expected back in the lineup.

The most important player currently on the shelf, however, will not be back right away. GM Chuck Fletcher provided an update on Thursday saying that Carter Hart will miss at least another week, meaning that he’ll be unavailable for the next three games at a bare minimum.

Do you hear the clock ticking?

If Hart can return soon (maybe next Thursday against New Jersey?), then his absence will not have been terrible in the grand scheme of things. But if his abdominal issue lingers much longer, then it might start to move into the realm of “season-ruining injury”. Brian Elliott has been solid filling in, but the team is in trouble if Hart isn’t back in short order.

Next. Flyers: Jakub Voracek entering critical stretch. dark

Overall, the Flyers aren’t in bad shape. But their sporadic results through the season’s first 50 games mean that they will need to play excellent hockey over their last 32 contests to prevent this season from being a wasted one in the end.