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PRACTICE REPORT: Showdown in DC

Flyers-Caps meet on Wednesday as the push for 1st place in the Metro continues

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer

The entire Philadelphia Flyers roster was on the ice in Voorhees on Tuesday, as the team prepared for a back-to-back set of games on Wednesday at the Capital One Center against Metropolitan Division leading Washington and at home the next night against Carolina. 

Currently three points behind the Capitals, the next games will either set the Flyers up for a legitimate push for first place in the Metro or potentially to fall behind the Pittsburgh Penguins again and back to the brink of battling to stay out of the dogfight for a wildcard spot.

"We don't have a checkmark [playoff spot clinched] by our name. We haven't achieved anything ," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "We have to keep playing the right way, and focusing only on the next game. That's what we've got in front of us tomorrow."

Following are some notes, quotes and news from Tuesday's practice:

* All four line combinations and all three defensive pairings from the last three games remained intact at Tuesday's practice (See "Line Play" below). That is not a surprise. The lone healthy scratch will be defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who took reps at practice with rehabbing center Nolan Patrick standing in as his "defense partner."

* Brian Elliott will get the start in goal against the Capitals on Wednesday, with Carter Hart starting at home on Thursday against the Hurricanes. Hart has started twice at home against the Capitals this season, playing well in both games, while Elliott stopped 24 of 26 shots in the Flyers' 7-2 blowout win in Washington on Feb. 8.

VIGNEAULT: "Last time around when we were in Washington, Brian won. He played a real solid game. We've got five back-to-backs left, when we looked at our schedule. We'll keep doing what we've been doing all year, splitting the games. We've got a lot of confidence in both of our goalies."

* The Flyers, who are 2-0-1 against the Capitals this season, have won six games in a row heading into Wednesday's game. While some hockey people do not believe that momentum necessarily carries over from one game to the next, Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen -- who won a Stanley Cup with the Capitals and has been part of winning teams for most of his career -- said there is a common thread in extending winning streaks.

NISKANEN: "Each game [of a winning streak], you have to be focused on playing a little better than the last one. We have room to play better than we did on Sunday. The next game is a big challenge for us, and we have to play to our capabilities. That's what it comes down."

* Vigneault said that center Derek Grant, acquired at the trade deadline, has fit in rather seamlessly with linemates James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick, as well as part of the penalty kill. Grant's style seems to mesh particularly well with Pitlick's speedy north-south game. As a trio, the line brings an element of size across the board, hustle and van Riemsdyk's ability to score goals. Grant himself scored his first as a Flyer in Sunday afternoon's win over the Rangers.

GRANT: "The systems aren't too different from ones that I've played before, and everyone has welcomed me with open arms. It's pretty exciting."

FLYERS LINE PLAY
Giroux - Couturier - Voracek
Laughton - Hayes - Konecny
van Riemsdyk - Grant - Pitlick
Raffl - Thompson - Aube-Kubel

Provorov - Niskanen
Sanheim - Myers
Hägg - Braun

*Elliott
Hart

EXTRAS: Gostisbehere & Patrick

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