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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- A Philadelphia Flyers win Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, TSN4, CSN-PH) could boost them into a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Flyers (20-15-8) enter Tuesday with 48 points in 43 games, two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference and having played three fewer games. If the Canadiens lose to the Boston Bruins in regulation and the New Jersey Devils gain one point or less against the Calgary Flames, the Flyers would jump past four teams and into a wild card spot.

"I haven't looked at the standings until I would say 10 games ago because I knew we weren't in the playoffs," forward Jakub Voracek said. "But now that we're getting close to a spot it's worth it to see where you're at in the standings. Good to see we're climbing but we've got a long way to go."

Working in the Flyers' favor Tuesday are the Maple Leafs' recent struggles. They've lost five straight games and have scored five goals during that span.

However the Flyers struggled this season against some of the poorer teams in the League. In eight games against six of the bottom seven teams in the NHL standings -- the Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets -- the Flyers are 1-5-2. This is their first game of the season against the 29th-place Maple Leafs (16-20-7).

"Every team in this League can beat everybody," Voracek said. "It's going to be a hard game, that's how we approach it. We are not in a position that we can say we don't have to win today. We have to win every single game the rest of the year; that's how we have to approach every game. Doesn't matter if you're playing Toronto, if you play Boston, if you play Montreal. ... Obviously we know our record against non-playoff teams and they aren't in a playoff spot; it isn't very good."

Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said it doesn't matter where the Maple Leafs are in the standings, that the key for his team Tuesday is to focus on the things it's been doing right during a stretch that has seen them go 13-5-3 in their past 21 games.

"We've been playing good hockey and we're going to continue to play good hockey," Simmonds said. "Doesn't matter who our opponent is on any given night. Have to worry about ourselves and not worry about what they're doing. As long as we're doing things right we should be good."

The Maple Leafs are trying to rediscover how to do things right, and part of that is scoring goals. After scoring at least three goals in 11 of 12 games, they've scored more than one goal in a game once in their past five. Making things more difficult is the absence of forward James van Riemsdyk, who was leading the Maple Leafs with 29 points when he sustained a broken left foot Jan. 9 against the San Jose Sharks.

"We talked about that today and our focus is on how to do that," coach Mike Babcock said. "That's what we spent our time on and that's what our concern will be today and that's what our focus will be today, keeping it out of our net and getting into their net."

Part of the Maple Leafs' struggles has been a lack of offensive zone time. In the past five games they've averaged 43.8 shot attempts at 5-on-5, compared to 50.3 attempts during their previous high-scoring streak.

As forward Joffrey Lupul pointed out, there's also been some bad luck. In their Jan. 13 game against the Blue Jackets, Toronto had 79 shot attempts in a 3-1 loss. And in their 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Jan. 16, with the game tied 2-2 the Maple Leafs' PA Parenteau had an open net until Bruins defenseman Torey Krug dove into the goal to block his shot.

"You feel like you got unlucky there," Lupul said. "But there's some things throughout the game we can do better and hopefully we can be better and execute tonight. ... You just work at practice, you do little extra things. Sometimes you need something lucky to happen -- a bounce, a goal that goes in off someone's body or a goalie lets in a bad goal. All of a sudden it all seems so much easier. We had some real quality chances last game that [Bruins goalie Tuukka] Rask saved, one that he was out of the net and the defenseman came and saved. It's just like you need some of those to start going in."

Here are the projected lineups:


Shawn Matthias - Tyler Bozak - PA Parenteau

Michael Grabner - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Joffrey Lupul - Peter Holland - Brad Boyes

Daniel Winnik - Byron Froese - Rich Clune

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner - Dion Phaneuf

Martin Marincin - Roman Polak

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Injured: James van Riemsdyk (foot), Nick Spaling (upper body), Stephane Robidas (lower body)

Scratched: Frank Corrado, Josh Leivo


Jakub Voracek - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Brayden Schenn

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Matt Read - Scott Laughton - R.J. Umberger

Michael Del Zotto - Radko Gudas

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Evgeny Medvedev - Shayne Gostisbehere

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: None

Scratched: Brandon Manning, Jordan Weal

Status report: The Maple Leafs also are hoping for some fortuitous bounces on their power play, which is 0-for-14 in the past four games, including 0-for-5 against the Bruins. "We watched some videos this morning of last game and some things we did really well," Lupul said. "We did everything but score. Rask made some huge saves diving around. Hopefully we can build on that. Once you get one on the power play it just seems so much easier." ... Weal has yet to play since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 6. His last NHL game was Dec. 28 against the Canucks. Outside of goaltender changes this is the third straight game the Flyers will use the same lineup.

Who's hot: Matthias has one goal and one assist in his past two games. ... The Flyers' top line of Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek have combined for four goals and nine assists in the past three games.


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