The Philadelphia Flyers are only 4 points ahead of the Dallas Stars, and yet in their conference they sit in 7th place while the Stars sit in 12th in the West. And while the drive from Dallas to Philly is a full 200 miles shorter than the drive to San Jose, their conference (and subsequent playoff situation) is not likely to change any time soon. Dallas remains 7 points out of a playoff spot, though mathematically alive. Technically.
Philadelphia has goals of improving their seed tonight and are only 2 points out of 5th place, but will have to do it with a netminder that hasn't started a game since December. Brian Boucher is that man, and his mark on the season is an "uh-oh" 4-12-2. Still, the last time these teams met on January 12th, the Flyers rocked Dallas pretty hard, 6-3, with two of the Dallas goals coming in garbage third period action of an already decided game.
The last time the Flyers visited American Airlines Center was March 13th, 2007; The night Mike Modano scored his 500th goal. We're guessing tonight's proceedings won't quite compare to that lofty precedent, but the Stars can keep their playoff (dreams) alive with a win tonight.
After the jump, a look at the goaltending situation both teams face, a troubling stat against the East, and injuries...
Did you know that the Stars are one of only 3 teams in the western conference with a losing record against the east? (6-8-2). They have two shots at improving that mark and getting back to .500 against the weaker of the NHL's two halves.
Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 45 of 47 shots in the Stars 8-2 win over the Sharks on Tuesday, will get the start for the Stars. The Flyers have scored 3 goals or less in 7 straight games, averaging 2.28 goals per game in that stretch.
Mike Heika reported, for once, no additional injuries or changes at practice on Wednesday, so we'll expect the Stars to roll with something like this tonight:
Morrow - Ribeiro - Segal (that's right, I'm calling this the top line for now)
Ott - Richards -Eriksson
Neal - Benn - Lehtinen
Barch - Petersen - Sutherby
Mike Modano continues resting comfortably at home. His return is thought to be about two weeks away.
It looks like Matt Niskanen will be scratched again along with Fabian Brunnstrom. That sounds about right to me.
Broad Stree Hockey recaps some of the whacky goalie action the Flyers have been experiencing:
We know this, and there's no reason to look back at all the goaltending failures we've seen over the last... 23 or so years. (For the record and on the subject, we've changed the slogan on the site for the first time this season!) On Tuesday night in Nashville, though, our little three-ring goalie circus got a little more absurd when Michael Leighton left the game in the first period with what's being reported as a high-ankle sprain.
As Brian Boucher came into the game with nobody to back him up, word first got out via the Daily News that Johan Backlund was injured up in Glens Falls. We had just spoken with Tim McManus at the Post-Star for 40 minutes in an interview for BSH Radio and he hadn't mentioned a word about Backlund's injury, so things were questionable. As it turns out, it appears Backlund did indeed look a little injured in overtime on Sunday and after an off day on Monday, he missed practice on Tuesday.
Boucher, 33, is 4-12-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. The won-lost record is misleading because he has received little scoring support and because four of the losses were charged to him after he entered games in which the Flyers were trailing.
In 14 starts this season, Boucher is 4-10 with a 2.42 goals-against average. If you throw out his 6-1 loss in Pittsburgh, he has a 2.13 goals-against average in his other starts. The Flyers have a total of eight goals in his 10 losses as a starter.
"I feel, when I've played, I've given us a chance to win, but we were just in a scoring funk," Boucher said after returning from bowling, which the team did on a rare day away from the ice. "Hopefully, I can play the same way and we can score some goals and push forward."
You know, they should have traded for Ma....No, never mind.
Dallas: Modano (appendix) and Wandell (knee) are out.
Philadelphia: Goaltender Michael Leighton (sprained ankle) is out.