PHILADELPHIA -- With one win in their past seven games and teams racing up behind them in the Stanley Cup Playoff chase, the Philadelphia Flyers have their focus squarely set on their opponent Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
"I'd say it's a must-win for us," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "We have to treat this as the last game of the year to get in the playoffs. We need two points. It's getting little too close for comfort right now with the way we've played the last few games."
The Flyers are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday and are 1-4-2 in their past seven. They're third in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and three ahead of the New Jersey Devils.
Though the Sabres are 30th in the NHL standings, that could make them an even tougher opponent than any of the Flyers' previous 12 games, which had been against teams in a playoff spot or only one or two points out.
"That's a team that can't lose anything," forward Jakub Voracek said. "They're going to play free, they're going to play with no stress. They're going to try to play good hockey. ... We have to make sure we're ready for this one because it won't be any easier than the games before."
The Sabres are looking to take as many teams down with them as they can in their final five games.
"We understand the situation we're in, but we're not going to go out lightly," center Tyler Ennis said. "If we're not making the playoffs we don't want anyone else to either."
Among the Sabres who could have extra motivation Sunday is forward Ville Leino, who spent parts of two seasons with the Flyers prior to signing with Buffalo as a free agent in July 2011. Leino doesn't have a goal in 55 games this season, but has one assist in each of the past three games and scored the winning goal in the ninth round of a shootout April 1 against the New Jersey Devils.
"I'm feeling confident, getting really good ice time, making a lot of plays," Leino said. "Maybe get one [Sunday]."
The Flyers held an optional morning skate populated by 11 skaters and two goaltenders, so their lineup won't be known until game time. The Sabres had a full practice, including injured forwards Marcus Foligno (knee) and Chris Stewart (ankle). Coach Ted Nolan said neither would play Sunday, but said Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings is a possibility.
"It's a great sign to get those two guys back," Nolan said. "Marcus, when he got injured we thought he was done for the year. When Stewart got injured we thought he was done for the year. We give our [trainers] a lot of credit to get these guys ready."
Stewart was hurt March 6 in his second game with the Sabres after being acquired from the St. Louis Blues as part of the Ryan Miller trade. Foligno appeared to be injured far worse when his right knee twisted awkwardly when he was tied up with the Blues' Roman Polak on Thursday.
"I thought right away it was pretty bad," Foligno said. "I didn't want to think that but my knee got caught under me like that. ... I just thought it was really bad. I was happy that it healed up quick, do some rehab and have some days off here. I'm hopeful for Tuesday to get back in the lineup."
Here's how the lineups for the Flyers and Sabres could look Sunday:
Injured: Chris Stewart (ankle), Alexander Sulzer (upper body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Jhonas Enroth (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed), Tyler Myers (upper body), Marcus Foligno (lower body), Henrik Tallinder (groin), Zenon Konopka (back), Drew Stafford (undisclosed)
Injured: Steve Downie (upper body)
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
|Back to top|