Slumping Flyers seek quick turnaround vs. Islanders

John Tortorella.

      The certainty of an automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division standings slipped out of the Flyers’ grasp on Saturday night with their loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks.

      While that 5-1 defeat was going on, the Washington Capitals caught up to the Flyers for third place in the Metro by virtue of the one point they earned from a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins.

      Both the Flyers and Capitals have 82 points but Washington has the tiebreaker based on fewer games played.

      All of which makes Monday night’s home game against the New York Islanders a crucial encounter for the Flyers. The Islanders are also still in the mix with 77 points and also have two games in hand on the Flyers.

      Philadelphia has just seven games left on its schedule.

      After the Islanders, the Flyers begin a four-game road trip. They visit Buffalo on Thursday, Columbus on Friday, Montreal on April 9 and the New York Rangers on April 11. They finish their season with home games against New Jersey on April 13 and finally an all-important encounter with Washington to complete the schedule on April 16.

      The Flyers appear to be sagging at exactly the wrong time. They are winless (0-3-1) in their last four games and have slipped to just seven games over .500 (36-29-10).

      Coach John Tortorella’s crew is getting some mental and physical down time. They called off Sunday’s scheduled practice and also will not practice on Tuesday.

      It will give an obviously tired bunch a chance to regroup.

      “See, I want to practice, I think we need to practice,” Tortorella said after Saturday night’s game. “I think that would help some guys. I can’t. I wish I had the answer. We’ll have our 10 o’clock meeting Monday and get ready to play another very important game for us.

      “We just have to get some sort of energy back and some confidence back in our game and not lose our belief. We’ve worked too hard to get to this spot to play these types of games (like the Blackhawks match). Now we have to figure out how we get back on the other side of it here.”

      The return of defenseman Nick Seeler on Saturday night was one bit of good news.

      Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings picked up a point in the Eastern Conference wild card race by losing at Florida in a shootout. So the Wings have 80 points and trail the Flyers by two points in the battle for the final wild card spot. Detroit also has a game in hand on Philadelphia.

      The Flyers are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and that’s certainly a trend they would like to reverse.

      The Islanders have been a bit of a disappointment this season. They fired coach Lane Lambert midway through the campaign and hired Patrick Roy. Since then, the results have been mixed.

      For the Flyers, it could be a landmark game if newly arrived Russian goaltender Ivan Fedotov makes his NHL debut. Fedotov took part in his first press conference on Friday and suited up to serve as Samuel Ersson’s backup for the Chicago game.

      Fedotov, who stands 6-foot-7, says he looks forward to the challenge. It took him a couple years to get out of Russia because of a military service obligation. The Flyers say he’s ready to go and should see some action during these last seven games.

      Tortorella wants to see his team turn its fortunes around, in a hurry. Some faster starts would help.

      “When you’re constantly trying to crawl back into it (as the Flyers have the past two games) and play in spurts, it’s tough to get your energy going,” the coach said.

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About Wayne Fish 2426 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.