The Flyers, thanks to a 13-5-2 run, are just three points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division race.
But they are only one point ahead of the last wild-card team, Columbus. That gives each of the Flyers’ remaining 20 games more magnitude, starting Tuesday against visiting San Jose.
“Every game is so important," center Scott Laughton said after practice Monday in Voorhees. “It’s going to be a fun race and this is the best time to play hockey.”
Of the 20 remaining games, 13 are against Eastern Conference opponents, and seven are against the West. The Flyers are an impressive 25-9-5 against the East -- only Tampa Bay has a better record -- and 10-11-2 against the West.
On Tuesday, the Flyers (35-20-7) will be trying to avenge an early-season 6-1 loss in San Jose. The Sharks (26-32-4), who have accumulated 21 fewer points than the Flyers, have fallen on tough times and have lost four straight.
‘Ghost’ still a Flyer
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere played two games on a conditioning stint with Lehigh Valley over the weekend and said his surgically repaired left knee did not give him any problems.
“It took me the first period of the first game to get used to the game speed again,” he said. “It’s definitely a different style of hockey down there. My legs felt great. My knee felt good.”
The Flyers recalled him Sunday, but with the team playing so well, he is not expected to return to the lineup Tuesday.
“Obviously the boys are rolling and I wouldn’t touch the lineup, either,” Gostisbehere said. “I’m just going to keep putting my work in and wait for the opportunity.”
The Flyers are 20-16-5 with Gostisbehere in the lineup this season and 15-4-2 without him.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said that from what he has seen on social media about Gostisbehere, “I’m amazed at how often I’m trading him.”
Fletcher said some teams inquired about Gostisbehere.
“He’s a guy I think can still contribute," he said. "He can play on the power play. We weren’t looking to move him. Teams have called on him. Nothing really makes sense to me right now to move one of our seven D unless we are getting a great impact player back in some area.”
Farabee, Bunnaman demoted
After acquiring forwards Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, the Flyers sent left winger Joel Farabee (seven goals, 20 points, plus-5 rating in 49 games) and center Connor Bunnaman (one goal, two points, plus-7 in 21 games) to the Phantoms.
Farabee’s demotion was somewhat surprising.
“I just want to make sure we are giving Joel every opportunity to be the player he can become,” Fletcher said. “He’s played fine, and I have no doubt he will be part of our group again, maybe in the near future.”
Fletcher, who also praised Bunnaman, said he wanted Farabee to go to the Phantoms and get first-line minutes and time on the top power-play unit.
Oskar Lindblom’s treatments for a rare bone cancer have gone very well, Fletcher said. "I know the doctors are thrilled. The treatments have gone as well as they could.”
Still hopeful on Patrick
Fletcher said the two trade acquisitions didn’t mean center Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) would miss the rest of the season. He said he hoped that in the next couple of weeks Patrick could get to full-contact in practices.
The Flyers dealt defenseman T.J. Brennan, a Moorestown native who was with the Phantoms, to the Blackhawks for forward Nathan Noel, who will report to Reading in the ECHL.
Brennan, 30, ranks third in Lehigh Valley history with 156 points.