The numbers are daunting.
The Flyers have 72 points with 15 games left and would have to secure 25 points -- say, 12-2-1 -- to reach the 97-point mark. Last year, it took 97 points to qualify for the playoffs, and it seems like a fair guesstimate for this season, too.
“Up to a point, I think you have to,” goalie Brian Elliott said when asked if he looked at the number of wins the Flyers need to reach the postseason. “But, really, it’s ... that next game that means the most. You can break it down as much as you want and you can scoreboard-watch as much as you want, but you really have to get it done on a nightly basis, and that starts Saturday.”
Elliott will be in the goal Saturday night when the Flyers play the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Last Sunday, Elliott made 29 saves and sparked a 4-1 win over the Isles.
The Flyers’ remaining schedule includes two more games with powerful Washington, two against an Islanders team that is battling the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division title, and two with Toronto (41-21-5). That explains why Sports Club Stats gives the Flyers (32-27-8) just a 2 percent chance of playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Flyers’ 16-4-2 run has been impressive, but they are running out of time, and, after Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the visiting Caps, their margin for error has almost disappeared, starting with Saturday’s game.
“We need to bounce back. We need to see it as a playoff game,” defenseman Robert Hagg said after practice Thursday in Voorhees. “That’s what we’ve been doing for a couple weeks now.”
The Flyers are hoping to get center Nolan Patrick and right winger Jake Voracek back into the lineup Saturday. Voracek has been sidelined for two games after getting hit with a puck “in a funny place” against New Jersey, according to interim coach Scott Gordon.
Patrick practiced Thursday and said he felt good, but he must first pass the concussion protocol before he returns to the lineup. Voracek was not on the ice Thursday, but Gordon said he believed the right winger will be able to practice Friday.
“And long-term maybe it’s even going to be good for him just to have a little break,” Gordon said.
The Flyers will try to regroup from the loss to Washington, which built a 5-0 lead before the hosts’ rally fell short.
“We know how to bounce back and kind of forget it and move on," right winger Travis Konecny said.
“I think how we responded in the third period [Wednesday] is good momentum, ” Elliott said. "... We got outbattled and outscored in the first two, but we had that resilience to come back, and you definitely have to build on that and have your foot on the gas.”
As for Konecny, he had recently been on a line centered by Patrick.
“He’s played some incredible hockey for us down the stretch and after Christmas,” Konecny said. “I don’t think his points really speak to what his play has been. He hasn’t gotten some of the lucky bounces, production-wise. But defensively and pushing the pace, he’s definitely been a key piece for us.”
Elliott struggled against Washington (four goals on 19 shots) but had excelled in his previous six outings. Gordon will give him a chance to rebound.
“I think it’s always easy to look at the goalie and say he played bad and doesn’t deserve to play [the next game],” Gordon said, adding that if Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, or any of their skaters had an off night, “I wouldn’t have taken them out of the lineup. That’s the thing you have to weigh. I don’t think Brian was as sharp as he’s been for us. That being said, he made some saves that he shouldn’t have to make off the rush.”
Carter Hart took part in his first full practice since he injured his ankle in Montreal two weeks ago, and the rookie goalie said he felt ready to go.
“They all say that,” a smiling Gordon said, referring to players’ wanting to get back into the lineup after an injury.