PHILADELPHIA – For Joel Farabee, it will be his first NHL playoff stretch drive experience.
For James van Riemsdyk, it will be one of many.
But the two figure to share one common denominator: The excitement of pressure hockey.
After Tuesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins – perhaps a good example of how the last 32 games might play out – the Flyers get an eight-day break in their schedule due to their “bye week’’ plus this weekend’s NHL All-Star bash.
When they come back to play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Jan. 31, both Farabee and van Riemsdyk have the feeling it’s going to be desperation mode almost every night.
Going into Tuesday’s game against Pitt, the Flyers are on the outside looking in, trailing eighth-place Carolina by one point for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
Farabee, promoted to Sean Couturier’s second line with Jake Voracek due to neck-shoulder soreness from an suffered by Michael Raffl (day-to-day) in the Los Angeles game, looks forward to the challenge of these must-win games.
“That’s the reason you play the game,’’ Farabee said after Tuesday morning’s skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “You’re trying to get into the playoffs, trying to make a run.
“When we come back from break, all the games are big.’’
Like his teammates, Farabee believes that consistency is the most important element. The Flyers’ longest winning streak has been five games – that back in late November, early December.
At one point, the Flyers had a seven-point cushion for a playoff spot. But a shaky December, featuring a 7-6 mark, erased pretty much all of that.
“You try to get high at the right times,’’ Farabee said. “You need consistency all around if you’re going to make a run.’’
The Boston University graduate has played in 39 games for the Flyers and four for the Phantoms, so that 43-game total already exceeds last year’s 37 with Boston University.
He went through a bit of a stretch run for NCAA playoff seeding with the Terriers.
“We were kind of in the middle of the pack,’’ he said. “We were trying to sneak into the NCAA but it didn’t work out. Playoff hockey is a lot of fun but you have to get there first.’’
Farabee’s role has increased as the season has gone along. He’s even getting more power-play time now.
“Every opportunity I’m given is what I’ll do,’’ he said. “Getting the opportunity (on the power play) definitely feels good.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault seems to be putting more trust in Farabee’s efforts.
“Sometimes we forget how young he is (turns 20 next month),’’ Vigneault said. “He’s played more hockey than he’s played in any season prior to this.
“I think the one game off (a technical move to the Phantoms) may have re-energized him. He’s played better for us.’’
For van Riemsdyk, it’s another trip down the road to possible postseason play.
“You want to be having meaningful games down the stretch,’’ he said. “Obviously we’re jockeying for position. There seems like a lot of teams that are jumbled in (Flyers, Carolina, Columbus, the Islanders) fighting for the playoffs.
“We have a lot of important games coming up here. It makes it fun to come to the rink and play in those games.’’
Van Riemsdyk ended a 12-game goal drought against the Kings. He was moved up to the Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny line for that game and perhaps that unit can stay together for awhile down the stretch.
“I don’t think you’re necessarily doing anything different in these situations,’’ he said. “It sucked last year when it got to the point that we were kind of out of it. You’re playing for pride but it’s not as much fun.
“Everyone in here wants to make the playoffs and that’s when hockey is the most fun. Playing well down the stretch and cementing a position – it’s going to be a tough road to do that but I think we’re up to the challenge.’’
Vigneault, who was ill on Monday night and forced to cancel his speaking engagement at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Banquet, was back in the saddle Tuesday morning and ready to talk about the last portion of the season.
“You know I’m not into morning skates but everyone is out there today,’’ he said. “So we’re trying to keep everybody focused on the task at hand. We have one more game before the break and we need to play well.’’
Vigneault likes where his team is.
“We’re in a great position,’’ he said. “Right where we want to be. We said coming in here we’re going to get into the playoffs and have an opportunity to challenge to play for the Stanley Cup.’’
>Rubtsov in for Raffl
With Raffl out, German Rubtsov was scheduled to play against the Penguins. Rubtsov was called up from the Phantoms on Monday. He’s played three games with the Flyers this season with no points.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov has never missed a game in his career and the streak is closing in on 300 (he plays No. 296 tonight).
“He’s a force for us,’’ Vigneault said. “Plays top minutes against other teams’ top lines, plays on our power play, kills penalties.
“I still think he hasn’t peaked yet as far as his possibilities. There’s a lot more there. He’s an excellent player with still some upside to go.’’
Vigneault said Provorov can be more consistent and when to jump up in the play.
Giroux needs four points to reach 800 in the NHL. . .The Flyers need four wins to reach the 1,200-mark in franchise history.