Update: Flyers Danny Briere will be out tonight with an upper-body injury.
PITTSBURGH -- For a five-day layoff in the middle of a playoff hunt, it went just about as well as the Flyers could have hoped.
How well? The Flyers awoke on Sunday the same number of points (5) behind a playoff spot as they did on Tuesday, despite not playing a single game in between. They had the possibility of being nine points back entering Sunday night's grudge match against the Penguins.
And, in addition, they actually moved up a spot in the standings overnight - from 14th place to 13th place with Tampa Bay falling. (Lightning coach Guy Boucher was fired early Sunday morning.)
The math is simple.
At 13-16-1, the Flyers’ playoff hopes are dwindling at 8.1 percent, according to SportsClubStats.com. A mark of 11-4-3 will almost definitely get the job done. A record of 11-5-2 might. They will have a prayer at 10-5-3. And they’re dead at 10-6-2 or worse.
They have five teams to pass in the standings to sneak in, but they control their own destiny as they are scheduled to play each one of those teams (some more than once) over the final 18 games of the season. And, the Flyers now have games in-hand on three of the teams they’re chasing:
EASTERN CONFERENCE OUTLOOK
7. New Jersey (36 points) - vs. NJ 4/18. (2 games in-hand)
8. Carolina (32 points) - at CAR 4/20. (equal GP)
---- PLAYOFF CUT ----
9. N.Y. Rangers (32 points) - vs. NYR 3/26, vs. NYR 4/16. (equal GP)
10. Buffalo (30 points) - at BUF 4/13. (2 games in-hand)
11. Washington (29 points) - vs. WSH 3/31. (1 game in-hand)
12. N.Y. Islanders (29 points) - vs. NYI 3/28, at NYI 4/9, vs. NYI 4/25. (1 game in-hand)
13. Philadelphia (27 points)
Suffice to say, every point is important. But winning the above nine games in particular can change the Flyers’ playoff picture dramatically.
The only teams the Flyers do not play over the final 18 games are the two below them in the standings (Tampa Bay and Florida). The remaining schedule:
1. PITTSBURGH: at PIT 3/24
2. MONTREAL: vs. MTL 4/3, at MTL 4/15
3. WINNIPEG: at WPG 4/6
4. BOSTON: vs. BOS 3/30, vs. BOS 4/23
5. OTTAWA: vs. OTT 4/11, at OTT 4/27
6. TORONTO: at TOR 4/4
Outside of Boston and maybe Montreal, there aren’t any teams on that list that aren’t beatable.
It’s not about winning every game, it’s about winning the right games. Going 7-2 in those nine important games allows you a cushion of a 4-5 in the other nine games, with a pretty strong likelihood of getting in.
The blueprint is there. Whether they can actually pull it off is another thing entirely. But it will be interesting to watch.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers