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Philadelphia Flyers Can Clinch a Playoff Spot Tonight with a Win Over the Florida Panthers

April 8th, 2014 at 6:39 PM
By Scott Erik Anderson

The Philadelphia Flyers came away with a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, bringing their four-game losing streak to an end. The Flyers aren't in the clear yet as they still need to clinch a playoff spot. The Flyers only need two points to clinch, so they are looking for the win tonight over the Florida Panthers.

tonyjuliano / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

WIN AND YOU'RE IN

Since their loss against the Los Angeles Kings on March 24, the Flyers have been in a tailspin. The Flyers have gone 2-6 since then as they ended a rough 12-game stretch against some of the top teams in the league. Even after losing four straight games, the Flyers managed to hold on to third place in the Metropolitan Division with 89 points, sitting two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets who sit in the last Wild Card spot. The Flyers are also two points behind the New York Rangers.

With a win tonight, the Flyers clinch a spot in the playoffs. While the Flyers fight to clinch tonight, the Rangers will be fighting to keep second place in their possession. The Rangers take on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. While the main goal is to make the playoffs, the Flyers also want to catch and pass the Rangers. With that possibility within reach, it will make the Flyers work even harder in their remaining four games.

RINALDO OUT

Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo is out for the remainder of the season due to the league handing him a four-game suspension for his hit on Chad Ruhwedel of the Sabres. Rudwedel left the game on Sunday with a concussion and Rinaldo ended up getting tossed for the third period hit.

Rinaldo is known for his hard-hitting play and is a repeat offender. However, he has come a long way from being the "out of control" player that we saw early on in his Flyers career. Rinaldo is now a much smarter hockey player and knows when or when not to start something. Instead of having a penalty called on himself, he is drawing more penalties on other teams. 

Rinaldo will be back for the playoffs and the Flyers could really use him on the forecheck. 

STEVE DOWNIE RETURNS

It's been eight games since Steve Downie last took the ice. After suffering a concussion and whiplash in the Flyers' matchup with the St. Louis Blues on March 22, Downie has finally been cleared to play by the Flyers medical staff.

Downie said he was ready to play last week, but he was left out of the lineup as a precaution in order to make sure that he was completely healthy. With Rinaldo out due to a suspension, Downie will take his place in the lineup. He will return to the third line of Matt Read and Sean Couturier.

WHO IS STARTING BETWEEN THE PIPES TONIGHT?

Steve Mason will be starting between the pipes tonight after coming off a great performance against the Sabres on Sunday. Mason had 17 saves on 19 shots on Sunday en route to a 5-2 victory. The win on Sunday is what Mason needed to get back on track after a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins and a regulation loss to the Blue Jackets during the four game skid the Flyers were on.

Mason looks to shut down the Panthers tonight just like he has done en route to his 5-1-0 record against them. In six games, Mason has only averaged 1.48 goals-against when facing the Panthers. 

For the season, Mason has a .916 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average. The best thing that can happen for the Flyers is Mason getting hot to end the season. If that happens, Mason can carry over his momentum to the playoffs and give the Flyers a chance at advancing.

PLAYER TO WATCH – VINNY LECAVALIER

After his two goal game against the Sabres, Brayden Schenn became the sixth Flyer this season to score 20 goals. Vinny Lecavalier isn't that far behind and will become the seventh Flyer to break the 20-goal mark. 

Lecavalier was demoted to the fourth line prior to the Flyers' game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 28. The demotion came as Lecavalier has been struggling to make an impact this season. In the six games since his demotion, Lecavalier has four goals and one assist.

Now that he his back at his natural position, center, Lecavalier feels more comfortable on the ice and it can clearly be seen. The Panthers are second-to-last this season, so look for Lecavalier to put the puck in the back of the net at least once tonight. The fire has been lit under Lecavalier and it has happened at just the right time as they head towards the playoffs.

 

Photo credit: tonyjuliano / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Tags: Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Flyers, Hockey, NHL, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Flyers, Playoffs, Steve, Steve Mason, Vinny Lecavalier, Zac Rinaldo

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