Flyers vs. Devils preview: Playoff chase begins in earnest

Bruce Bennett

The playoff chase is essentially in full swing for the Flyers as they head up the Turnpike for the first of a home-and-home series with the New Jersey Devils.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or Ilya Bryzgalov) to figure out that the Flyers have a big couple of games against the New Jersey Devils this week.

Flyers_orange_mediumDevils_red_medium
Philadelphia Flyers (12-14-1, 25) at New Jersey Devils (12-9-5, 29)
7:30 p.m. | Prudential Center | Newark, N.J.
TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN 2 | Radio: 93.3 WMMR
Get the New Jersey perspective at In Lou We Trust

Any of us schmucks with access to NHL.com can see that there are 21 games left in the season and that the Flyers need to begin making moves now, and with back-to-back games against the No. 7 seed on the horizon, the Flyers can't afford to lose them both. Winning both could really help out the playoff outlook quite a bit.

Adam Gretz at CBS Sports has 55 points as the magic number to qualify as a "lock" for the postseason, and if that estimation is correct, the Flyers can go no worse than 14-5-2 over the remainder of the season if they want to see the playoffs. That is a small margin for error.

The good news, at least for the immediate future, is that the Devils are playing some pretty abysmal hockey of late. You might say we're catching them at a good time. In Lou We Trust wrote a week ago about the current slump facing the team, and while they've gone 2-1 (with two shootout wins) since this writing, many of the same issues still apply. In a nutshell, pucks aren't going in the net, special teams have collapsed and their goaltending has been awful.

Johan Hedberg will likely start tonight for the Devils, the current starter for the club as Martin Brodeur remains out with a back injury. Hedberg's allowed 19 goals on 125 shots in just six games since the start of March. Really the opposite of good.

The Flyers will of course start Ilya Bryzgalov tonight, and according to multiple reports, they'll ice a line of Simon Gagne, Danny Briere and Sean Couturier against the Devils this evening. This is the part where we make a French Connection reference. Peter Laviolette clearly wants more offensively out of Couturier even if he's still remained one of the league's top defensive forwards this season, and the hope is that Gagne and Briere will be able to bring that out.

Usually, this is the part of the preview where we'd talk about the last meeting between the teams, but let's just go ahead and ignore that because good God, that sucked.

Questions to Answer
  1. How does the Gagne-Briere-Couturier line shape up?
  2. Jake Scoracek. All the points?
  3. Can Andrej Meszaros improve upon a weak game Sunday?
  4. The Flyers dominated the early part of the game Sunday. Can they repeat?
  5. Is the new Pope rooting for the Devils or the Flyers?
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