Ed Snider, the Flyers' chairman and the man most responsible for bringing the franchise to Philadelphia 50 years ago, is battling health issues and was resting in his California home Thursday while the team photo was taken at the Wells Fargo Center.

But his presence was felt 3,000 miles away. Fact is, his presence has been felt all season even though he has only attended a few games.

Right winger Wayne Simmonds said the Flyers have focused on making the playoffs for the 83-year-old Snider.

"We never really said anything about it, but I think it's kind of an unspoken thing," Simmonds said after the team photo was taken. "Mr. Snider obviously is this organization. He is the Philadelphia Flyers."

The Flyers, thanks to a 2-1 shootout win over powerful Washington on Wednesday, are two points ahead of Detroit for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

"I was sitting there talking to Hak," said Simmonds, referring to head coach Dave Hakstol, "and I was like, 'This is my fifth year in Philadelphia, and it's weird to not see Mr. Snider in the picture.'

"This," said Simmonds about the Flyers' playoff charge, "is definitely something we're trying to put together for Mr. Snider."

The Flyers are on a 12-3-2 surge and have climbed over four teams to reach a playoff spot. They host Ottawa on Saturday afternoon.

After Wednesday's win, an ecstatic Snider phoned Hakstol.

"It was tremendous to have a chance to talk with him," Hakstol said. "You know he wants to congratulate us, but it's really the other way around. Everything our team is doing right now goes back to Mr. Snider. It's tremendous to know he's watching our games, and certainly we want him to know what we're doing is based on playing for him and the organization he's built."

Simmonds said Hakstol told him Snider was "all pumped up for the win."

For the last half-century, Snider has usually been in the center of the yearly team photo.

"Maybe he wasn't there physically in the photo with us, but he was there," Hakstol said. "Believe me, he was there; he was there with all of us."

About three months ago, the Flyers visited Snider at his Montecito, Calif., mansion during their West Coast trip.

"We spent the afternoon with him, and it was great seeing him," goalie Steve Mason said on Thursday. "He's somebody we've missed seeing around this year. He typically comes down after most home games that he's here and comes around the locker room and says a few words.

"I think the guys are trying to make the season special for him."

Mason had a special March, compiling an 8-2-2 record, a 1.88 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage during the month. He has started 12 of the last 13 games, including the last seven.

Mason said he is having too much fun being in a playoff race to feel fatigued, though he conceded it was a "nice break" to have two days off before the next game.

"It's been a while since we've had that," he said. "This is going to be a huge stretch for us."

Starting Saturday, the Flyers end the season with six games - three sets of back-to-back contests - in the last nine days, including the final four games in a five-day stretch.

"It's a tough task, but we just have to manage it properly and prepare ourselves the best we can," Mason said. "We battle every single night, and the guys have done a great job of coming up with some pretty solid efforts in some tough situations - the travel, being tired and things like that. We just find ways to win hockey games right now, and that's what we need at this time of the year."

The Flyers used either a third-period comeback, an overtime or a shootout to register their last three wins, defeating Colorado, Winnipeg and Washington.

"We put ourselves in a position coming back from the road trip where everything was in our hands," Mason said, "and so far we've done a good job at home."

With Snider providing the inspiration.


@BroadStBull www.philly.com/flyersblog