VOORHEES – Considering the dire position the Flyers are in, all games are important.
But given that the Flyers have a record of just 6-9-1 in the Metropolitan Division and 16-17-3 against the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to see why the Flyers’ upcoming schedule is of particular urgency.
The mathematical formula is rather simple: The Flyers play their next five games, including three over a span of four days, against the Metro Division and 12 of the last 19.
In other words, the Flyers, seven points down in the playoff chase, better reverse those losing trends against the Metro and the East in a hurry.
It starts Thursday night in Columbus, against a team which has already beaten the Flyers three times and added some talent at the trade deadline, including former Ottawa sniper Matt Duchene, Rangers defenseman Adam McQuaid and Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid.
Then it’s on to New Jersey to play the Devils on Friday, followed by a third road game, this against the New York Islanders on Sunday afternoon at their old barn, the Nassau Coliseum.
Many of these games will be “four-pointers,’’ that is, the Flyers take home two points and deny a close-standing rival from gaining any ground.
When the Flyers play traditional rivals such as the three New York area teams, Pittsburgh or Washington (which they play three more times), there seems to be an air of extra competitiveness.
And a win, such as the one over the Penguins on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field, can supply a team with a surge of confidence, right?
Andrew MacDonald agrees.
“There are certain games on the schedule we know we have to win,’’ he said after Wednesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “Games against teams like that are crucial, games against divisional opponents.’’
The Flyers’ 13 points against Metro Division teams are the fewest among the eight teams. The next lowest: Rangers and Devils with 18.
“These are important points, especially the way the division is stacked,’’ MacDonald said. “Any time you play in the division, they’re always at a premium.
“You never want to say that there are games that are more important than others but in reality, when you’re playing those (division) games, you really need to bear down.’’
One trend working in the Flyers’ favor: They have won the back end of a back-to-back situation three straight times after starting the year 2-5.
“We haven’t had a lot of success so far in the division,’’ MacDonald said. “But we have lots of opportunities coming down the stretch.
“And we didn’t help ourselves at all with the way we played at the start of the year, we put ourselves behind the 8-ball. But I think we’ve shown lately what we’re capable of. Had we been able to find this consistency in our game earlier in the year, we would be in a much different situation.’’
Both Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek are very much aware of the situation.
One little three- or four-game slip and they could quickly fall out of contention.
“Usually, if you are going to make the playoffs, you have to have a good record in your division,’’ Couturier said. “We need to be better in our division. It’s almost our playoffs right now.’’
Voracek has been known for his bold predictions in the past but he’s staying away from that now. All he knows is the Flyers have a very small margin for error.
He did go out on a limb and say the Flyers probably will have to win 13 of their final 19 games to make it.
“This weekend is huge. . .and we play the Islanders three more times,’’ he said. “That’s basically 12 points (up for grabs) right there.’’
The Flyers will have their hands full with the Blue Jackets. Since the 2012-13 lockout, the Flyers are just 6-11-6 against their Ohio rivals.
Coach Scott Gordon confirmed Cam Talbot, acquired in a trade with Edmonton (Anthony Stolarz) some two weeks ago, will make his first start in the New Jersey game. It will be his first start since Feb. 9.
Will there be any “rust’’ issues?
“Well, he’s played all year,’’ Gordon said. “So it’s not like he’s coming off any injury. In that regard, it will be a little easier.’’
Talbot said he’s no stranger to stretches of sitting out.
“You guys I played behind (New York Rangers’ future Hall of Famer Henrik) Lundqvist for two years,’’ he said with a smile. “There were some stretches in there where I was healthy and ready to go but Hank just took the run.’’
It looks like the Flyers will revert back to six-defensemen format for Columbus after dressing seven in Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over Buffalo. Phil Myers is likely to sit. Forward Phil Varone figures to be back in the lineup. . .Corban Knight played his first game on Tuesday and also will play against Columbus. . .Gordon, when asked if it might take a while for Columbus to integrate all its new talent: “I hope it takes 15 games.’’
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