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Flyers vs. Hurricanes Preview: The calm before the storm

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This is going to come down to game 82, isn’t it?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers once again look to clinch a playoff spot tonight, this time playing the Carolina Hurricanes. If the Flyers win tonight and the Florida Panthers lose — in regulation or overtime — the Flyers will being heading back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, if Florida wins tonight vs. Boston (go Broons, ew) it all might come down to game 82, in typical Flyers fashion.

The Flyers are coming off of a demoralizing 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders, a game in which they went down 4-1 heading into the third period, proceeded to come all the way back to tie the game, then just seconds later give up the go-ahead and game winning goal. The Canes are coming off of a 3-2 loss at the hands of Florida (that’s just downright rude, Canes) and are 5-5-0 in their last 10. This is a similar situation to the one the Flyers were in on Tuesday, a loose team with nothing to play for looking to play spoiler. What happened Tuesday cannot be allowed to happen again.

With a win over the Canes tonight, the Flyers would also take the season series from Carolina, winning three out of four games. In the two teams’ previous matchup, the Flyers battled back twice for a 4-2 win in a game that featured a Valtteri Filppula breakaway goal...yeah I still don’t believe it either. They might need some more of that wizardry if they hope to clinch that elusive playoff spot tonight.

Three Keys to the Game

1. Player usage aka do NOT do what you did against the Isles

One of the biggest blunders of the Islanders game was the reliance on players like Filppula and Brandon Manning; this ended up backfiring in a big way for the Flyers just as it did against Boston on Sunday. The Flyers cannot keep sending out a Filppula or Lehtera with a Manning and Gudas after goals, all it is doing is conceding important shifts and that’s just not smart coaching. Depending on how the game is going, the Patrick line needs to be given the treatment of the Filppula line. I understand that there are two rookies on that line, and trust is not going to be high, but at this point I truly cannot imagine they can be worse than what we’ve seen of late.

2. Defensive zone coverage needs to improve

Once again going back to the Islanders game, the Flyers need to be better in d-zone coverage against Carolina. The Canes are a stout play driving team and they need to limit their time in the offensive zone. Their offense has way too many weapons to allow them to cycle the puck the way the Islanders did, and they will get burned if they do. Since I don’t have any confidence in the Manning/Gudas pairing getting fewer minutes, they need to have a big game defensively. Not even asking them to be a play driving force back there, just need them to get the puck out and cover their respective zones, no breakdowns.

3. Petr, steal us one, please?

Look, it hasn’t been the best of starts for Petr Mrazek in Philadelphia. But this could very well be one of those times where we need the goalie to steal us a game. The Flyers are oh-so close to clinching a playoff spot and no matter how many times us on this here blog have joked about wanting this team to miss the playoffs...we want playoff hockey. All of us here are tired of being stuck in mediocrity and to be fair, the Flyers are a painfully average team for the most part, but playoffs ease that feeling just a little bit. So Petr, do us all a favor and get the Flyers one step closer to the postseason, would ya?

Flyers Projected Lines

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek

Weal - Filppula - Simmonds

Raffl - Lehtera - Read

Defense

Provorov - Gostisbehere

Sanheim - MacDonald

Manning - Gudas

Goalie

Mrazek

(Lyon)