Flyers' muddy playoff picture

Posted: April 14, 2014

EVEN AFTER 80 games, the Flyers' playoff picture remains ridiculously convoluted.

Just about the only things we know are that the Flyers have clinched a berth - and that they will be opening on the road. Where? Your guess is as good as anyone.

There are still 270 possible outcomes to determine the Flyers' first-round opponent. Out of those 270, approximately 105 scenarios have them opening at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. The rest are split: 83 for Pittsburgh and 82 for Boston.

Last Monday, nearly 90 percent of the equations pointed to the Rangers.

A New York winning streak, combined with a hot Columbus team and a Flyers loss in Tampa Bay, threw the odds on their head.

The Flyers have the power to pick their poison with their play this weekend. That can be a slippery slope, as failing to to pick up any points could mean a date with Boston instead of a more desirable matchup with the Penguins.

Columbus' loss in Tampa Bay last night, though, means any two points gained by the Flyers this weekend will clinch the Rangers. Anything less than that leaves it up to chance.

And for the Flyers, playing strong in the final two games before the playoffs begin on Wednesday may bode better for success than dangerously picking their opponent.

"We definitely don't want a two-game skid," Scott Hartnell said. "Detroit's right there, too. We've got to be playing our top hockey here right now. We've got two games to sort it out, to get on the right page with momentum moving forward. We've got to get sharper."

If it means anything, the Penguins - who can avoid the Flyers by losing - have their focus on winning.

"We're trying to win, that's for sure," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I'm not looking at it as a rest situation. I expect it to be a Philly-Pittsburgh game regardless of the circumstances of the schedule and what positions we're both in or not in in the playoff picture. I'm not looking at it differently because of the opponent or the possible playoff matchups."

Slap shots

The Flyers are 2-0-0 at Consol Energy Center this season and 10-3-0 (including playoffs) since it opened in 2010 . . . Evgeni Malkin (foot) hasn't played since March 23 and is not expected to dress today. Defensemen Paul Martin (hand) and Kris Letang (stroke) recently returned for the Penguins . . . Nick Grossmann (foot) could return for the Flyers today after sitting out Thursday in Tampa Bay.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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