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Flyers face Capitals in potential playoff preview

Win extends Philadelphia's lead for second wild-card spot in East; Washington's Oshie game-time decision

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

CAPITALS (54-16-5) at FLYERS (37-25-13) 

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360

PHILADELPHIA -- It could be a preview of an Eastern Conference First Round series when the Washington Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

A win by the Flyers would go a long way toward cementing that future matchup.

The Flyers and Detroit Red Wings have 87 points but the Flyers have the edge in the race for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East because they've played fewer games than the Red Wings.

Detroit's 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday gives Philadelphia a chance to have its first lead in the race for the final spot. 

"We were helped out last night but it doesn't mean anything if we don't help ourselves," Flyers goalie Steve Mason said. "Tonight's a great test against the best team in the League." 

Mason will be a big part of the Flyers' effort. It will be his seventh straight start and 12th in the past 13 games. He said he feels energized, and his numbers certainly bear that out. In his past 11 games he's 7-2-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. He's allowed two goals or fewer in five straight games and seven of the past 11. 

"[Feeling] good," Mason said. "It would be a lot more difficult if we weren't in the playoff race. When you're playing for something meaningful it's a lot easier. ... It's fun to be a part of it when you're in the playoff picture."

The Flyers added depth behind Mason and backup Anthony Stolarz when they added Ray Emery on a tryout contract Tuesday. Emery hasn't played much this season, two short stints in the American Hockey League with Ontario and Toronto, and seven games with Mannheim in Germany. He said he sees a chance to spend time with the Flyers as an opportunity to help them now and showcase himself for possible future employment.

"It's been tough," Emery said. "I went to Tampa's [training] camp, got released from there and I was waiting to see if something popped up in the NHL. In the meantime I missed out on the European thing. I ended up bouncing around. I love the game and I still want to play."

It also helps that Emery is familiar with the Flyers; he spent the previous two seasons as Mason's backup and was a popular teammate. 

"[Emery] is one of the most well-liked guys in the locker room," Mason said. "Nice to have a friendly face back here. He's good for the team and for this stretch drive as well."

The Capitals could have a different look Wednesday. Forward T.J. Oshie sat out the morning skate and coach Barry Trotz said he would be a game-time decision. Oshie missed the final 3:26 of a 4-1 defeat of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.

"Got twisted up the other day," Trotz said. "We're at that point where we're going to see where he is tonight. We've got to be smart about where we are and where people are. Right now we'll just see where he is tonight."

Regardless of who plays, this game could be just what the Capitals, who already have clinched the Presidents' Trophy, need as they attempt to ramp up into playoff mode.  

"It's a good test for us," Trotz said. "We said we want to start elevating our game so we're playoff ready. We'e playing as well as anyone in the National Hockey League right now so it's a terrific test for us."

Here are the projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Marcus Johansson

Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Michael Latta

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov

Braden Holtby  

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: T.J. Oshie (undisclosed)

Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Mike Weber, Stanislav Galiev

FLYERS

Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Nick Cousins - Sam Gagner

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Andrew MacDonald - Shayne Gostisbehere

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas

Steve Mason

Anthony Stolarz

Injured: Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Michael Del Zotto (wrist)

Scratched: Jordan Weal, R.J. Umberger, Evgeny Medvedev

Status report: Orlov will remain in the lineup after he and Trotz had a conversation recently about Orlov cleaning up his play. "Coach gives you a chance to play, always good for a player," Orlov said. "Especially after mistakes. We had a nice conversation. He talked about how I should play and I will try to do my best." ... If Oshie can play he likely would go in at right wing on the top line. Johansson then would move to center on the third line, Beagle would move to right wing on the fourth line and Latta would be scratched. ... Voracek said he feels like the lower-body injury that sidelined him for nine games earlier this month is behind him. "The foot isn't the problem. Doesn't hurt anymore," he said. "I got no more excuses. ... I expect to be a difference maker tonight and down the stretch."

Who's hot: Holtby has allowed one goal or fewer in four of his past six games. ... Giroux has four goals in his past five games.

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