Parityville: 8 teams within one point

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The Flyers and Rangers are tied in the standings with 55 points each. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

   With the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens losing their respective games Wednesday, the Flyers remained in a tie for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
    Amazingly, there is one point that separates the sixth-seed from the 13th-seed in the East. Repeat: one point.
    The Flyers, Rangers, Montreal and Florida each have 55 points. But the Flyers have played just 51 games _ two fewer than Florida, three fewer than the Rangers, and four fewer than Montreal.
     Technically, the Flyers are ahead of those teams because they have games in hand. Those extra contests won’t mean much, of course, if the Flyers don’t take advantage. They get their next chance when they host Atlanta Thursday.
     Atlanta is one of four teams that has 54 points _ Tampa Bay, Boston and the Islanders are the others.
    In other words, one point separates eight teams battling for the final three playoff spots.
 

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     Minnesota assigned right winger Petr Sykora to their minor-league affiliate, the Houston Aeros, on Wednesday.
    Should he report (and that’s questionable) and Minnesota attempts to recall him, he would have to go through re-entry waivers and a team could claim him for half of his $1.6 million salary.
    That might make him attractive to the cap-strapped Flyers, who could use depth at right wing.
    Sykora, 33, a veteran of 935 NHL games, has 302 career goals. He was waived by the Wild last week, but went unclaimed.
    Sykora had 25 goals in 60 games last season for the Stanley Cup champion Penguins, but he missed time with a concussion and didn’t get much playing time with the Wild, managing two goals and one assist in 14 games.

   Stay tuned.

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   Flyers center Blair Betts welcomed a daughter, Olivia Jean, who was born Wednesday morning and weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce and was 20 inches tall.

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     As part of “Hockey Week Across Philadelphia,” the Flyers will celebrate USA Hockey Night when they host Atlanta on Thursday. All disciplines of USA Hockey will be represented on the concourse, and discounted tickets are being offered to all local youth hockey players.

    The Flyers will also honor USA Jr. national sled hockey team member Ray Beck of Sicklerville, N.J.

    Fans attending Saturday's 1 p.m. game between the Flyers and visiting Islanders are encouraged to donate a new or gently worn pair of shoes as part of an effort between Comcast-Spectacor and KIWI® Shoe Care. The shoes will be donated to Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization that facilitates the collection and donation of shoes to those in need.

     During Saturday's game, the Flyers will recognize a group of disabled hockey players from EveryBODY Skates New Jersey as they attempt to tour all 54 ice rinks in the Garden State during a 54-hour span. The group is raising awareness for disabled hockey (http://everybodyskatesnj.wordpress.com/about/).

     Saturday is also Try Hockey for Free Day. Free lessons will be offered at 17 local rinks (200 nationally) from 11 a.m. until noon. A complete list of participating rinks is available at philadelphiaflyers.com.

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