SUNRISE, Fla. -- 190 down, 5 days to go.
For the Flyers, extending their season at least another four games beyond 82 has come down to just two points.
The Flyers can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center in Game No. 79 - thanks to New Jersey’s stunning loss to Calgary last night.
The Flyers clinched a playoff spot on April 7, 2009 with a win over the Panthers. Marty Biron was in net for that game; Jeff Carter scored the game-winning goal.
This Florida team has picked up just 4 out of their last 20 possible points - but they did register a comeback win on Sunday over Dallas to dampen the Stars’ playoff chances a bit. Roberto Luongo has been strong in net for the ‘Cats since being acquired from Vancouver.
“These games are the hardest to play,” Jake Voracek said after the Flyers' morning skate. “Those teams don’t have anything to play for on paper, but they have a lot of young guys that want to fight for a spot on the team. It’s going to be a hard game. We’ve got to work hard against them.”
This sojourn to South Florida’s warm, tropical air is more about the Flyers.
They were swept by the Panthers and Lightning on Nov. 25 and Nov. 27 this season - just the fourth time that’s happened in a two-game swing through Florida in franchise history. The other dates they didn’t garner at least one point: Feb. 24-26, 1999; Oct. 19-20, 2006; Oct. 24-25, 2007.
“This is a great opportunity for the hockey team tonight,” Craig Berube said. “We all know what's at stake and what we've got to do here. We need to go out and trust our system and play hard, be competitive.”
Berube says he has a different team now than the one that made this trip five months ago. For him, though, it’s all about mindset.
“I watched (Florida on Sunday) before our game, they were on TV, they’re a dangerous team right now,” Berube said. “They play with a lot of confidence, they move the puck well. They got a lot of young players that are skating and playing well so we’ve got to expect a real tough game. I think if we do that and if we go in there with the right mindset we’ll be OK.”
With the right mindset, the Flyers will be playoff bound. No more algorithms or percentages. Imagine that.
The Flyers remain two points back of the Rangers (with one game in-hand) for second place in the Metropolitan division and home-ice in the first round of the playoffs. New York hosts Carolina tonight. With a Rangers loss, the Flyers would take over home-ice in a tie, by virtue of the game in-hand. However, if the two teams are tied through the end of the season, the Rangers would hold the tiebreaker for regulation and overtime wins.
That means the Flyers still face an uphill battle to earn home-ice in the first round - but they do have their sights set on home-ice, if possible, considering they haven't won at Madison Square Garden since 2011.
"We're right there," Voracek said.
For one game, though, the focus is on the Flyers. Not anyone else. There need be no scoreboard watching.
"We want to focus on how we play," Claude Giroux said, "After tonight, we want to be a better team than when we were this morning."
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers