Crucial stretch for Flyers starts with Penguins

Dejected Flyers after the loss. They face a daunting schedule in their bid for the playoffs.
Dejected Flyers after the loss. They face a daunting schedule in their bid for the playoffs. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: March 14, 2014

When a hockey game was heading into its final frantic minutes, the late Gene Hart, a Hall of Fame Flyers broadcaster, used to have a trademark expression:

"Fasten your seat belts, folks!"

The same applies to the Flyers' make-or-break finish to their intriguing season.

The last month of the regular season may not be as intense as the True Detective finale, but it will be great theater.

Seventeen games in 30 days. Four points separating the second- and sixth-place teams fighting for two remaining playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division. Two wild-card spots up for grabs in the Eastern Conference.

Cue Hart's excited plea.

The Flyers have a daunting schedule: A home-and-home series with the Metro–cruising Pittsburgh Penguins this weekend, followed by a Tuesday home game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

On Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers will play the Penguins for the first time since a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Nov. 13. The Penguins scored a 4-1 win in Philadelphia on Oct. 17, giving the Flyers a 1-7 record.

The remaining schedule includes two games each against powerhouses St. Louis and Boston, yet another matchup with the archrival Penguins, and a home game against Los Angeles and former teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

"Every game is huge, and obviously we're going to have to bear down," said right winger Wayne Simmonds, whose team dropped a 2-1 decision to visiting New Jersey on Tuesday, a game in which a controversial referee's decision disallowed a Flyers goal with 40.1 seconds remaining. ". . . We have to stream together 60 minutes, instead of 40 minutes here, 15 minutes there."

The Flyers are in a virtual tie with Columbus for third place in the Metro, but the Blue Jackets have the tiebreaker. If the season ended today, the Flyers would make the playoffs as the second wild-card team and would face the Penguins in the opening round.

Fasten your seat belts.

Shero thankful. At 11 a.m. Saturday, the Fred Shero statue outside Xfinity Live will be unveiled. The late Flyers coach was inducted into hockey's Hall of Fame in November, and his son, Ray, the Penguins general manager, will be at Saturday's ceremony, which will be open to the public.

"It's been an amazing year for my father and family," Shero said.

 


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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