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Flyers face key stretch vs. conference foes

After earning the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot last year, the Flyers again find themselves in a fight for their postseason lives.

After earning the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot last year, the Flyers again find themselves in a fight for their postseason lives.

The Flyers entered Tuesday three points behind Boston for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

Down the stretch, the Flyers will be playing almost exclusively within the conference. The Flyers will play 20 of their final 23 games against Eastern Conference teams.

"We can make up some ground now. That is what we want," all-star winger Wayne Simmonds said Tuesday after practice in Voorhees. "We want to play the teams we are battling."

The Flyers, coming off a 1-2 road trip in Western Canada, could not begin their stretch run with two more difficult games.

On Wednesday, they host the Washington Capitals. On Saturday, they visit the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors at Heinz Field.

Entering Tuesday, Washington had the most points in the Eastern Conference, and Pittsburgh was second.

The Flyers salvaged a game on their Canadian trip Sunday with a 3-2 victory at Vancouver. Before that, they lost by 3-1 in Calgary and by 6-3 in Edmonton.

Although the Flyers have been inconsistent this month, going 3-4-1, they are looking at anything that could provide momentum.

The players are hoping they can build off the Vancouver win.

"Getting the two points was a big confidence booster for us," said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who had three assists in the victory. "For us, the momentum going into games against divisional teams is pretty pivotal."

Brayden Schenn, who entered Tuesday with an NHL-leading 14 power-play goals, said that the key is not looking too far ahead.

"It's not too much scoreboard watching you can do because teams [in contention] can win or lose every night, so you have to worry about yourself," Schenn said.

The Flyers feel the urgency with the majority of the schedule against Eastern Conference teams.

"It is make it or break it. That's it," Gostisbehere said. "You are either in the playoffs or no, and you are going to play against the hardest teams and it is going to be a little bit of a dogfight for us."

Weal update

Winger Jordan Weal rejoined the Flyers at practice, but it appears he still is not ready to return to game action. Weal suffered an apparent head injury after taking a hit from Edmonton's Eric Gryba on Thursday. The Flyers are calling it an upper body injury.

"It is one of those injuries you have to take your time with," Weal said after practice. "When I feel I am ready to play, I will."

Weal recently was promoted from the Phantoms, where he was second in the AHL with 47 points. He had played only three games with the Flyers.

He seemed encouraged by his progress. "I am feeling good," he said. "It definitely has been progressing every day."

False alarm

When defenseman Radko Gudas left practice early, taking his sticks with him, it sent the speculation mill into overdrive. With the March 1 NHL trade deadline approaching, speculation was that Gudas might be leaving the Flyers.

After practice, general manager Ron Hextall said that Gudas left early to get his tooth fixed. The Flyers had originally planned to practice at 10:30 a.m., but it was moved to 1 p.m. Gudas' appointment was for the early afternoon.

Voracek in pain

During practice, Jake Voracek was hit by a puck below the waist while attempting to tip a shot in goal. He skated off and was in noticeable pain and was not available for comment. A team official said later that Voracek was fine.