Recently acquired Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek had some up-and-down seasons with the Red Wings, and he was disappointed to be just their No. 2 guy earlier this season.
That said, he will always be fond of Detroit because that is where his NHL career began.
Which is why Mrazek hopes to get the start Tuesday night when the Flyers (37-25-11) play in Detroit (26-35-11) for the first time since they acquired Mrazek on Feb. 19 for two conditional draft picks.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Mrazek said after playing solidly, except for a bad late goal, in the Flyers’ impressive 6-3 win over Washington on Sunday. “We’ll see who Coach is going to decide to go with, but if I’m going to be in, even better. I’m really excited for it.”
As in Detroit, Mrazek has been inconsistent in his brief time with the Flyers, going 5-5-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. Rookie Alex Lyon, who is coming off Saturday’s 4-2 win in Carolina, is the other option for Tuesday’s game, but coach Dave Hakstol is expected to go with the more experienced Mrazek.
When he was traded, Mrazek said he realized right away that the Flyers had one more game in Detroit.
“It’s gonna be nice to get back, but when the game starts, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side,” Mrazek said. “We are going there to get some good results, and we have to build from there.”
After losing seven of eight games, the Flyers regrouped nicely over the weekend, winning in Carolina and whipping Washington. They sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division with nine games left.
Next they face a reeling Detroit team that is out of the playoff picture and has lost 10 straight, during which it has been outscored, 41-19. The Red Wings have allowed four goals or more in eight of their last nine games.
“It’s gonna be nice to be back in the town where I spent my first five or six years in the NHL, but now it’s the opposite [side],” Mrazek said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
After playing in the Motor City, the Flyers will host the New York Rangers, another team that will miss the playoffs, on Thursday. After that, they will go on a key three-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Dallas and Colorado.
Of the Flyers’ nine remaining games (four home, five away), six will be against teams not currently in playoff spots.
“One game at a time,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said after scoring two goals in the victory over Washington. “You go small sample sizes and go one period at a time. We know we control our own destiny, so for us, it’s just keep doing good things. Get pucks deep. I think the last two games, we’ve done a good job of getting pucks behind the other teams’ D. We were pretty consistent with it and just kept going.”
If the season ended today, the Flyers would play Pittsburgh in the first round. But the standings are so tight that things can change quickly and often. The Flyers are four points behind first-place Washington and two points behind the second-place Penguins, and those teams have a game in hand on Philadelphia.
Columbus, New Jersey and, to a lesser extent, Florida are on the Flyers’ heels.
“Everybody knows where we’re at,” Hakstol said. “Everybody knows what’s upcoming here in the next few weeks. Narrow the focus.”
Winger Michael Raffl, injured in Sunday’s game, will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury, general manager Ron Hextall said. Raffl played most of the last two games as the team’s top-line left winger.
Travis Konecny probably will go back to the top line, and Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise, and Taylor Leier are candidates to replace Raffl (11 goals, plus-2).
The Flyers have a plus-3 goal differential, while Detroit is at minus-40. … The Flyers have 4-3 and 3-2 (overtime) wins against the Red Wings this season. … Detroit goalie Jared Coreau has lost three straight since being recalled from Grand Rapids to replace Mrazek. … Because Mrazek has already won five regular-season games with the Flyers, if Philadelphia makes the playoffs, the Red Wings will get a third-round pick this June – they received a conditional fourth-rounder in the deal – based on the trade’s stipulations. If the Flyers go to the conference finals and Mrazek wins six playoff games, the third-rounder becomes a second-rounder. The 2019 conditional pick, a third-rounder, is sent to Detroit only if Mrazek re-signs with the Flyers as a restricted free agent after the season.