The Detroit Red Wings have two paths to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; the Philadelphia Flyers have one. One of these teams will move two points closer to the postseason by winning the Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).
The Flyers and Red Wings each begin the night with 91 points; Philadelphia has a game in hand. A 10-3-2 run has carried the Flyers into the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, with a chance to catch the New York Islanders for the first wild card. This game begins a tough closing stretch for the Flyers, who play four times in the final five days of the season.
Detroit, which is trying to qualify for the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season, could pass the Flyers for a wild card, but the Red Wings are also battling the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins, who also have 91 points, host Detroit on Thursday.
As the Flyers and Red Wings try to take the final step to the playoffs, here are four players helping their teams make the climb:
Wayne Simmonds, F, Flyers -- Simmonds has turned into one of the NHL's most consistent scorers since Philadelphia acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on June 23, 2011. He has 29 goals this season, and has had 28 or 29 in each of his four full seasons with the Flyers. Simmonds is at his best on the power play; 13 of his 29 goals have come the man-advantage, giving him 42 in the past three seasons. Simmonds has four goals and six points in the past four games.
Brayden Schenn, F, Flyers - Schenn came to the Flyers along with Simmonds, but his career hasn't taken off until this season, his fifth in the NHL. Schenn has career highs with 25 goals, 56 points and 11 power-play goals. He has a goal and four points in Philadelphia's past four games, and is a plus player (plus-3) for the first time in his NHL career.
Dylan Larkin, F, Red Wings - The 19-year-old has cooled off after a hot start that earned him a trip to the Honda NHL All-Star Game. But he still leads the Red Wings with 23 goals and five game-winners, and his 45 points are tied for third. Larkin uses his speed at each end of the rink; he leads the Red Wings with a plus-13 rating.
Jimmy Howard, G, Red Wings - After going nearly three months between victories, Howard has found his game at the right time for Detroit's playoff hopes. He earned 3-2 victories on back-to-back nights last weekend; his 32-save performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday put the Red Wings in position to get into the playoffs without any outside help by winning their final three games in regulation. In his past four games, Howard has a 3-1-0 record, 2.12 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.