Key stretch in Flyers' playoff bid

The slumping Flyers have six games before the Olympic break. Six games to get back on track and re-establish themselves as an Eastern Conference playoff team.

“It’s huge,” said winger Wayne Simmonds, whose team will try to snap a four-game losing streak against visiting Detroit on Tuesday. “Obviously you want to go into the Olympic break in a playoff spot. We kind of messed ourselves up; it’s a huge dogfight right now from fourth all the way down to 12th. You lose a game, you could be out. You win a game, you could jump two spots. We have to really bear down and make sure we bring our best effort every night.”

Entering Monday, the Flyers were ninth in the Eastern Conference _ one point behind Columbus, which held the eighth and final playoff spot. Just six points separated the teams from fourth to 13th.

Prior to the Olympic break, the Flyers will face the Red Wings _ one of the teams they are battling for a playoff spot _ Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and Calgary.

“Every game, you’re setting yourself up for the 20 games after the Olympic break, so in these last (six) games, we have to be solid,” forward Vinny Lecavalier said.

Defensively, the Flyers have struggled recently. They have allowed three goals or more in nine straight games, and they have surrendered the first goal in 10 of their last 13 games.

“They key to getting out of this is to have a good start in the next game,” Simmonds said. ”We haven’t been playing well as of late in all aspects of the game… especially defensively.”

Lately, a majority of the games have been played in the Flyers’ defensive end.

“We have to spend more time in the offensive zone and not just be one and done,” Lecavalier said.

The Flyers started the season 1-7, then went on a 24-12-5 run before losing their last four (0-3-1).

“It seems like there’s no middle ground. Either we’re unbelievable or we’re not that good,” Simmonds said. “I think we have to develop more consistency; we want to be more even-keel (where) we can’t be too high or too low.”

Hartnell hurting. Winger Scott Hartnell had a maintenance day and didn’t practice Sunday. At the Flyers’ Wives Carnival, Hartnell wore a protective boot and conceded his left ankle, which he injured while blocking a shot Jan. 14 in Buffalo, has remained painful and that he will have tests Monday to see if there is any damage.

Breakaways. Zac Rinaldo says his sprained left ankle felt improved at practice. “Slowly but surely, it’s progressing,” he said….The Flyers Wives Carnival, which completed its 37th year, has raised more than $25 million for local charities..Ed Snider, chairman of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, attended the carnival and told CSN the four-game losing streak has him deflated: "I'm a little bit depressed, but the fans pick me up," he said.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.