When you get to Game No. 81 of a marathon season and you’ve long since locked up a playoff spot, there often isn’t much to do other than scoreboard watch as you close out the schedule.
“I think even the teams that were knocked out already are watching the scoreboard, too,” Jody Shelley said after Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s what you do at this time of year.”
It’s a good bet that both the Flyers and Sabres will be watching the ticker in the Wells Fargo Center during Thursday night’s contest - which means a whole heck of a lot more for Buffalo than it does the Flyers.
Buffalo can watch their miraculous run for a playoff spot come to an end at the Flyers’ hands, with a regulation loss against Philadelphia coupled with a Washington regulation win over Florida.
“We’d love to spoil their hopes of making the playoffs,” Scott Hartnell said. “It’s going to be a playoff game. We’re going to have to be focused and ready to play right from the get-go. That’s been our biggest problem all year.
“It’s going to be a close as we can get to a playoff team for the next two, probably. This is their Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to get into the dance. It’s a big test for us, too, to get our game ready for the playoffs.”
On Feb. 18, the Sabres were in 15th place in the Eastern Conference at 24-27-7. On the back of Ryan Miller, the Sabres have ripped off points at an astounding clip, rolling to a 15-4-3 record to date.
With a Washington regulation loss and a Buffalo regulation win, the Sabres would hold a two-point edge heading into Saturday’s finale.
The Flyers, on the other hand, are in a tough spot. They want to play as well as they possibly can heading into the playoffs, but they still have a mathematical chance to play against Florida. They can also still flip-flop with Pittsburgh for the 4th seed and home ice in the first round.
Here’s how it all shakes out:
RACE FOR 4TH THROUGH 6TH:
4. Pittsburgh - 104 points, 2 GR (vs. NYR, vs. PHI)
5. Philadelphia - 101 points, 2 GR (vs. BUF, at PIT)
6. New Jersey - 98 points, 2 GR (at DET, vs. OTT)
The Devils cannot fall to 7th. But they can jump to 5th. That would require two wins and the Flyers cannot earn a single point.
Keep in mind, the Flyers were 3-1-0 against Florida this year. The Panthers have not skated in a playoff game in nearly 4,500 nights (since 2000) and they still have not clinched the South-least division, but they can do so against Washington on Thursday night.
RACE FOR 8TH:
7. Ottawa - 92 points, 2 GR (vs. BOS, at NJ)
8. Washington - 88 points, 2 GR (vs. FLA, at NYR)
9. Buffalo - 88 points, 2 GR (at PHI, at BOS)
According to PlayoffStatus.com, Buffalo has just a 25 percent shot to qualify for the playoffs. Washington is at 76 percent, as they can also still catch Ottawa, who already clinched.
Just something to think about when you’re watching the scoreboard, err game, on Thursday night.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers