The Florida Panthers are likely to be rooting very hard for the Philadelphia Flyers this week.
Just not on Tuesday night.
That's when Florida could prevent the Flyers from clinching a playoff spot - and hurt their chances for the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed - before possibly needing Philadelphia's help to claim a postseason berth of its own.
The Panthers (39-29-11) have won four of five to move into a tie with the New York Rangers for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Both teams have three games remaining but the Rangers, who host Montreal on Tuesday, own the tiebreaker because they have one more win than Florida.
New York's final two regular-season games consist of a home-and-home series with Philadelphia (42-25-11). Florida, which hasn't been to the playoffs since 2000, plays Atlanta and Washington this week.
"We're tied, same amount of games left," Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "We've just got to keep winning."
So do the Flyers if they want to have home-ice advantage in the first round. Philadelphia, one point away from wrapping up a postseason berth, is tied with Carolina for fourth place in the East but has four games left while the Hurricanes have three.
"The good thing about the position that we're in is we don't really have to scoreboard-watch as long as we take advantage of the games that we have in hand," Flyers captain Mike Richards said.
Richards had a goal and an assist Saturday but was one of four Flyers to miss on their shootout attempts in a 4-3 loss at Ottawa.
The defeat was Philadelphia's fourth in six games.
"We're chasing the game right now because we're not making these little plays," Richards told the league's official Web site. "Once we start executing better and putting pucks on the tape, start focusing on the smaller parts of the game rather than the big picture, we should be fine."
One of his team's recent losses came at home to Florida, 4-2 on March 26 as Craig Anderson made 40 saves to give the Panthers a 2-0-1 lead in the season series. That was the first of four straight starts for Anderson, but Tomas Vokoun was back in net Sunday and stopped 41 shots in a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh.
Vokoun had lost seven of his previous eight starts. It's unclear which goaltender will be in net Tuesday, though Anderson has won his only two starts in Philadelphia - including Florida's visit last month - while Vokoun is 1-2-0 with a 4.96 goals-against average in four games there.
It's also uncertain who will be in Philadelphia's net. Backup Antero Niittymaki started Saturday, but he hasn't played back-to-back games since early March.
Top goalie Martin Biron, however, has given up at least three goals in four consecutive starts while posting an .883 save percentage. Plus, he's lost five straight starts versus the Panthers - two this season - and has a 3.47 goals-against average in his last seven games against them.
Niittymaki is 4-2-1 with a 2.04 GAA versus Florida and made 32 saves in a 3-2 shootout win Jan. 16, his only appearance against the Panthers this season. He's lost four straight starts overall, giving up at least three goals in each, but made 35 saves Saturday.
The Flyers surely would be helped by a big game from Jeff Carter, tied for second in the league with 44 goals. During Philadelphia's current 1-2-1 stretch, Carter had a had trick in the win and went pointless in the three losses.