Even though goalie Ilya Bryzgalov allowed five goals against the New York Rangers on Tuesday - his worst outing since Jan. 22 - the Flyers were encouraged by his return to the lineup.

"You couldn't fault him for any of the goals. I'm not concerned at all," general manager Paul Holmgren said Wednesday. "It's good he got a game behind him and now he can move forward."

Bryzgalov had missed the previous three games with a chip fracture of his right foot. He said he expected the rustiness he felt Tuesday after not playing in eight nights.

"We didn't help him too much. I think the majority of the goals were point-blank shots, and it's tough to make saves like that," winger Wayne Simmonds said. "You've got to have support from everyone on the ice."

The 31-year-old goalie, trying to regain his rhythm and take it into a likely first-round playoff matchup with Pittsburgh next week, is expected to be back in the nets Thursday when the Flyers host Buffalo, a team fighting for its playoff life.

Buffalo is tied with Washington for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals have the tiebreaker (most regulation and overtime wins) and both teams have two games left.

Sparked by goalie Ryan Miller, the Sabres have climbed into playoff contention by going on a 15-4-4 run since a 7-2 loss to the Flyers on Feb. 16.

Bryzgalov is 3-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average in the Flyers' three games with the Sabres this season.

Playoff possibilities.

The Flyers' magic number for clinching at least the fifth seed is one point. If the Flyers get a point - or the sixth-place Devils fail to gain a possible point - the Flyers will finish no lower than fifth in the East.

Finishing sixth is actually more desirable because that team will face the Southeast champion, likely Florida (currently seeded No. 3), in the opening playoff round.

Pittsburgh has a magic number of two points to secure the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round. The Penguins can wrap up the fourth spot on Thursday by beating the Rangers, who have nothing to gain after clinching the East title with Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Flyers.

If the Flyers are within two points or fewer after Thursday's games, the fourth seed will be decided on Saturday, when Peter Laviolette's team plays in Pittsburgh at 4 p.m. The Flyers have the tiebreaker with the Penguins.

Injury updates.

Holmgren refuted a report on a Rangers telecast that defenseman Andrej Meszaros was ahead of schedule and would start skating this weekend.

Meszaros had back surgery March 21, and Holmgren said the earliest he would return would be the second round of the playoffs.

Left winger James van Riemsdyk, who had surgery on his right foot March 6, will visit a doctor Thursday and could have his boot removed and be given clearance to begin skating, Holmgren said. The GM added that "a lot would have to go right" for van Riemsdyk to be able to play in the middle of the first playoff round.

Holmgren said he was hopeful defenseman Nick Grossmann, out with an apparent knee injury, can resume skating this weekend. Grossmann is expected to be ready for the start of the playoffs.

The Flyers are monitoring center Danny Briere, who continues to ice his ailing back. Briere hopes he can return for the beginning of the playoffs, but nothing is definitive.

Holmgren also said bruising winger Tom Sestito, recovering from groin surgery, is "weeks away" from returning.

No ribs for you!

Coach Peter Laviolette has credited postgame ribs provided by Dee Jay's in Weirton, W.Va., as one of the reasons the Flyers are 5-0 in Pittsburgh the last two seasons. But the establishment's owner, Dewey Guida, told the Steubenville (Ohio) Herald-Star his restaurant would no longer deliver food to the Flyers.

"No more ribs for them," Guida said. "And I pray, I hope, that the Penguins beat their skates off."

Guida became friends with Laviolette when he coached Wheeling of the ECHL.

Breakaways. The Flyers lead the league in power-play goals (65) and chances (328). They are seventh in the NHL with a 19.8 percent success rate. . . . The Flyers lead the NHL in average penalty minutes per game: 16. . . . The Sabres are minus injured defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers. . . . In the teams' last meeting, Simmonds was hit in the mouth during pregame warm-ups and was given 25 stitches, but he played that night and scored two goals in the Flyers' 7-2 victory. . . . The Flyers have faced at least a 2-0 deficit in seven of their last 10 game. . . . The Flyers announced that playoff tickets to the first two home games were on sale at philadelphiaflyers.com. . . . Goalie Jason Bacashihua was sent back to Adirondack.