ST. LOUIS — Last Thursday, the Flyers scored three third-period goals and jolted the gifted St. Louis Blues, 3-1. Playoff fever was in the Wells Fargo Center air. Remember?
But the Flyers have lost three straight since that victory and fallen nine points behind Boston for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Flyers, who have a rematch with the Blues on Thursday in St. Louis, have 14 games left, two fewer than the Bruins.
In other words, a feeling of hopelessness has engulfed the Flyers since they last faced St. Louis.
Don't include general manager Ron Hextall in that group.
Asked Wednesday if he was going to promote players from the Phantoms, Hextall said, "Our goal is still to make the playoffs. Until we're officially out, that will continue to be our goal."
When they are eliminated, Nick Cousins is one of the Phantoms who could get promoted. The 21-year-old center notched his second hat trick of the season Wednesday as Lehigh Valley defeated Toronto, 4-3. Cousins, who has 20 goals, scored his third goal Wednesday on a penalty shot, the Phantoms' first such tally since Zac Rinaldo in 2012.
Since a crushing 3-2 OT defeat in Boston on Saturday, the Flyers have played uninspired hockey, losing to New Jersey, 5-2, and to Dallas, 2-1.
"It's predictable, but it's not acceptable," said Hextall of the last two games. "…Saturday, the Boston game, it's disappointing for sure. You come back the next night…we gotta be better than that. That's the bottom line. I evaluate things over the course of the year, not one game. I'm not going to put too much into the last two games and all of a sudden come to some silly evaluation of where we are based on two games. In saying that, I certainly don't like it."
Breakaways. The Flyers have just one power-play goal in their last six games, going 1 for 15…..St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and forward Ollie Jokinen (upper-body injury) could return to the Blues' lineup….Hextall said 5-foot-8, 162-pound center Danick Martel "can really shoot the puck, he's got speed, and he's a really good offensive player." On Monday, the Flyers signed Martel to a three-year entry-level deal. At the time, the 20-year-old center was second in the QMJHL with 102 points (48 goals, 54 points).....St. Louis (42-19-5) is 23-8-2 at home, while the Flyers (28-27-13) are 9-18-7 on the road. The Blues are two points behind Nashville, the Central Division leader.