The Flyers haven’t played many teams who are NOT in the playoff hunt lately. They took care of San Jose two weeks ago, but the Devils put a hurtin’ on them last month.
That Devils game was an eye-opener for all the wrong reasons.
The Flyers will go for their ninth win in a row when Buffalo visits the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (7 p.m., NBCSP). The Sabres have lost five in a row, their star can’t find the scoresheet without a GPS and that trade for Wayne Simmonds at the deadline looks like a flop.
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The Flyers have a +20 scoring margin in the last eight games. The Sabres have a -21 for the season.
When the Flyers faced the seemingly wounded Devils on Feb. 6, they were rolled, 5-0. They’ve said they didn’t play that poorly, but 5-nothing is 5-nothing.
Since then, the Flyers have won 10 of 12.
“This team has done a great job of responding when we give up a goal or give up two,” fourth-year defenseman Ivan Provorov said after the Flyers beat Carolina on Thursday. “This year, out of all the years I’ve been here, this is the best we’ve been at pushing back and not getting back on our heels. [It’s] mental toughness and knowing that we have a good team and that no matter what happens we’ll be OK."
The surge has helped the Flyers into a virtual tie for the Metropolitan Division lead with Washington. (The Caps hold the second tiebreaker because of an extra overtime win.) Pittsburgh is three points behind and coming fast. This will be the Flyers third game in four nights.
The Sabres had won six of eight ahead of the trade deadline and thought they could make a run at the wild card. So they rolled the dice and sent a fifth-round pick to New Jersey for Simmonds. Buffalo hasn’t won a game since, though it’s hardly his fault.
The Sabres have nine goals during their five-game losing streak. Star captain Jack Eichel has not scored a point in a career-worst six games and is -8 during the span.
“It’s fighting up a big hill right now, but more than anything, it’s our offensive production that’s causing us the pain,” Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger said.
The Flyers have scored at least four goals in eight consecutive games. But if that New Jersey game taught them anything, it’s that pain Krueger mentioned is always as close as your next opponent. No matter what their record is.
The Flyers blasted the Sabres, 6-1, in December at the Wells Fargo Center. Eichel did not play that night. The two teams meet on April 4 in Buffalo, the final night of the regular season, in a game that figures to be slightly more important to the Flyers. ... There will be no need to scoreboard watch on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. The Capitals play at Pittsburgh in the afternoon (1 p.m., NHL Network). ... The Flyers did not commit a penalty on Thursday for the second time this season. Coming into the year, they had only played five such games in team history without a penalty. They’re 4-3 in those games.