Things can't possibly get worse for the struggling Philadelphia Flyers.
After finding out Simon Gagne could be lost for the season and mired in a season-high eight-game losing streak, the Flyers will try to get their first win over the sinking San Jose Sharks in more than seven years on Thursday night.
The Flyers (30-24-6) last dropped nine consecutive games from Jan. 4-27, 2007. That came one month after a franchise-record 10-game slide as Philadelphia missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.
|Martin Biron and the Flyers have been down and out lately, mired in a season-high eight-game losing streak and slipping rapidly in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race. They look to beat the San Jose Sharks for the first time in over seven years tonight. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)
Philadelphia's hopes of returning to the playoffs have taken a severe dent during its current skid, which continued Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout defeat at Ottawa. The Flyers were in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division when the slide started on Feb. 6, and are now tied with Boston and Buffalo for seventh in the Eastern Conference - one point ahead of the 10th-place New York Islanders.
"We have to build on the positives," Flyers coach John Stevens said after Tuesday's loss. "We were down 2-0 and regrouped. It's a big point any way you look at it. We need points right now."
The Flyers learned Wednesday that Gagne was advised by a doctor to sit out the rest of the season after suffering his third concussion in less than four months on Feb. 10 in a loss at Pittsburgh. Gagne, who has seven goals and 18 points in 25 games, said his symptoms were worse after the last two concussions and hoped to play again this season.
His injury is just another in a long line for Philadelphia. It's without Joffrey Lupul, who has 18 goals, could miss up to three weeks with a high ankle sprain. Defenseman Derian Hatcher (knee) may miss three weeks, and forwards Stevie Downie and Denis Tolpeko are out with concussions.
Martin Biron, who made 33 saves and one in the shootout on Tuesday, also is struggling. He's lost his last five games with a 3.39 goals-against average since making 27 saves in getting his third shutout in a win over Anaheim on Feb. 2.
Mike Richards, the Flyers' leader with 23 goals and 65 points, is also having a hard time, scoring only once during the losing streak.
Philadelphia hopes the duo can help the team secure its first win over San Jose (31-21-8) since a 4-3 victory at Wachovia Center on Dec. 21, 2000. Since then, the Flyers have come up empty in six matchups, losing four and tying two.
The teams haven't met since a 6-1 Sharks win at home on Nov. 18, 2006.
The Sharks, who are playing their fourth game in five days as part of a season-high seven-game road trip, are looking to avoid their first six-game slide since losing 10 in a row from Nov. 5-30, 2005.
|Joe Thornton hopes to help his Sharks avoid their first six-game losing skid since Nov. 2005. (AP Photo)
Their skid reached five games Wednesday with a 3-2 loss at New Jersey. Four of the losses have been by one goal.
"We're right in the thick of things," Sharks center Jeremy Roenick said. "If we win some hockey games we'll be OK. We're not playing bad hockey."
Roenick, who has an assist in each of his last two games, will be playing his first game in Philadelphia since spending three seasons there from 2001-04, helping the Flyers to the East finals in his last one.
Evgeni Nabokov is expected to be back in net Thursday after he was rested against the Devils in favor of rookie Thomas Greiss.
Nabokov, who has played 58 of San Jose's 60 games, is 0-3-1 with a 3.10 GAA in his last four starts.