The Game: Last week, the Flyers lost their top goaltender, Michael Leighton, for the remainder of the regular season as a result of high ankle sprain. Yesterday, the team learned that they would be without their top scorer, forward Jeff Carter, for the final ten games on the schedule. Carter has a non-displaced fracture in his left foot. While things look bad now, the Flyers are well aware they could get infinitely worse tonight as they travel north of the border to take on the Ottawa Senators at ScotiaBanque Place.
The Senators currently hold the East’s fifth seed, with the Flyers immediately behind them in the six slot, and two points back. A win tonight would flip-flop the two clubs, but an Ottawa win would certainly make things tough on the Flyers for the stretch run. The Senators haven’t exactly been on fire since the Olympic break, going 2-7-1 in their last ten contests. However, while the Sens have struggled, the Flyers haven’t been all that much better. The Orange and Black are just 4-4-2 in their last ten and are searching for far more answers than they will be able to find as they enter their final ten games on the regular season slate tonight.
The Story: The Senators have struggled as a group recently but are coming off a very convincing victory last night at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs were tied with both the Flyers and the Sens for the East’s fifth seed coming into last night’s action, but the Ottawa victory bumped them back to the seventh seed in the East. The Flyers, meanwhile, are coming off a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers, a club that has pulled within one point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. They had a porous road trip, going 1-2-1 in the four game swing, and are facing dire straits as they hit the ice this week for four incredibly difficult contests. It’s simple for the Flyers – a win tonight puts them right back in the thick of things. Another loss simply adds to the growing concern and sudden possibility that, yes, this team could conceivably miss the playoffs.
Who to Watch on the Senators: Daniel Alfredsson, Center.
Alfredsson has been one of the top players in the league for the past decade
It’s no secret that Alfredsson is one of the more talented players in the NHL – it’s been a known fact since the Senators center won Rookie of the Year way back in 1995. Another one of the Swedish greats, Alfredsson is once again basically on a point-a-game average for Ottawa this season. The veteran missed some time for the Senators after sustaining an injury earlier this year, but through 61 games he’s still been able to score 17 goals and add 43 assists. He works incredibly well with whomever he’s placed with and is absolutely lethal on the powerplay. Another thing to note about Alfredsson is the fact that his size is severely underestimated. Yes, he isn’t the biggest guy on the ice at 5’11”, but the Senators’ captain is one of the toughest players to knock off the puck in the NHL, as his 205 pound frame is 100% muscle. He works really well beneath the goal line, and it’s only reasonable to expect Alfredsson to be raring to go tonight as the Flyers come calling for a playoff-atmosphere match-up.
The Skinny: The Flyers started out magnificently this season against Ottawa, but after that the wheels against the Senators promptly came off. The Flyers defeated Ottawa in the first meeting between the two clubs in ’09-’10 by a score of 5-1, but have since dropped the two most recent decisions to the Senators by scores of 2-0 and 7-4. Tonight marks the final game of the season between the two clubs and it is imperative for each of them to win it. The catch, of course (cue-ing my inner John Madden here) is that in the end, one time will win and one team will lose. The Senators are going to want this game, bad. The Flyers need to want it more. They can’t fall back on the injury excuse – Boston is without their best player and has managed to keep their heads afloat thusfar. The Flyers need to follow suit, go out tonight in Ottawa and take care of business. That’s what they need to do; it’s up to them to determine if they actually will.
Notes: Brian Boucher will get the start tonight again for the Flyers but he may not start every game this week, because Johan Backlund has joined the Flyers after spending the last few days injured. Jeremy Duchesne has been sent back down to Adirondack to make room for Backlund’s arrival. The Sens will either start Brian Elliot or Pascal Leclaire in goal tonight. Elliot keyed the Sens to a shutout win last night against Montreal, but both have had their struggles recently so it’s hard to say who will be in the net.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 PM EST at ScotiaBanque Place in Ottawa and Jim Jackson, Bill Clement, and Steve Coates calling the game on Comcast SportsNet.