Flyers-Avalanche preview: MVP candidates Claude Giroux, Nathan MacKinnon both need wins

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Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (2.61 GAA, .916 save percentage), who hasn’t played since Feb. 18 because of a lower-body injury, may be ready for action Wednesday.

Flyers (38-25-14) at Avalanche (41-27-8)

WHEN: 10 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Pepsi Center

BROADCAST & STREAMING: NBCSP+, NBCSports.com/live, 93.3 FM

SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: @BroadStBull and @samdonnellon on Twitter

KEY PLAYERS: Recent losses to Detroit and Dallas — teams that had 10- and eight-game losing streaks, respectively, at the time — have given the Flyers little margin for error if they are going to make the playoffs.

About a month ago, they were in first place in the Metropolitan Division and seemingly a playoff lock.

Now?

With five games left, the Flyers are the Eastern Conference’s top wild-card team but have just a two-point lead over New Jersey, which has a game in hand. They are five points ahead of surging Florida, which has three games in hand as it tries to claim the second and final wild-card spot. (The Flyers are a point behind third-place Columbus in the Metro.)

In other words, Wednesday’s matchup is crucial. To both teams.

The Avs are one point out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but have a game in hand on Anaheim, the team directly in front of them.

The Flyers, who are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday in Dallas, and the rested Avs both have 90 points.

So far, Colorado has made a 42-point improvement from last season.

The game will match MVP candidates Nathan MacKinnon and the Flyers’ Claude Giroux, each of whom has 92 points, tied for fourth in the NHL. In a rarity for him, MacKinnon has been held off the scoresheet in the last two games.

Mikko Rantanen (27 goals, 80 points) and Gabriel Landeskog (24 goals, 57 points) are other key Colorado contributors.

Besides Giroux, Jake Voracek (80 points, 61 assists), Sean Couturier (31 goals, 71 points, plus-25), Wayne Simmonds (23 goals). and Travis Konecny (23 goals) key the Flyers’ attack. Konecny has 17 goals in his last 31 games.

“This was a tough one to swallow because I felt the whole night we were outplaying them,” Konecny said about Tuesday’s loss in Dallas. “We’ve just got to regroup and have short-term memory and get after it (Wednesday).”

Led by Ivan Provorov (14 goals) and Shayne Gostisbehere (13), Flyers’ defensemen have 47 goals, tied for the second-highest total among NHL blue-line groups.

Goalie Michal Neuvirth (2.61 GAA, .916 save percentage), who hasn’t played since Feb. 18 because of a lower-body injury, may be ready for action Wednesday.

THINGS TO KNOW: The Flyers have more losses after regulation (14) than any NHL team. … Giroux has a career-high 66 assists and is one point shy of equaling his personal-best in points (93) in a season. … Gostisbehere has 59 points, the most for a Flyers defenseman since Garry Galley had 70 in in 1993-94. … The Avs are coming off Monday’s 4-1 loss in Vegas. … MacKinnon had two assists in Colorado’s 5-4 shootout win over Neuvirth and the host Flyers on Nov. 4. In that game, Colorado had two PP goals and a shorthanded tally. … The Flyers have a six-game points streak (3-0-3).

HEAD TO HEAD: The Avs won the only game between the teams thus far this season, but the Flyers hold 40-25-14-6 advantage in the all-time series.

UPCOMING FLYERS GAMES:

Sunday: 12:30 p.m. vs. Boston

April 3: 7 p.m. at New York Islanders

April 5: 7 p.m. vs. Carolina

April 7: 3 p.m. vs. New York Rangers