The Philadelphia Flyers have frittered away the top spot in the Eastern Conference and now they're desperately trying to hang on to first place in the Atlantic Division and prevent the Pittsburgh Penguins from passing them.
The Flyers will be trying to avoid their first five-game losing streak of the season tonight in HSBC Arena. They're 0-3-1 in their last four games and have been mediocre for several weeks. Their record is 8-9-6 over the last 23 games and GM Paul Holmgren had a stern one-way meeting with his team this week because of it.
"We need to raise or level of intensity. We have to find a way to show more urgency in our game," former Sabres captain Danny Briere told me after the Flyers' morning skate. "It's a dangerous game when you get a big lead in the standings. It's kind of the same thing I went through with the Sabres (in 2007). It's a mindset that's tough to fight at times becuase it's human nature."
Numbers don't look kind on the Flyers. They're 11th in goals against, 19th on the power play and 15 in penalty-killing. Defenseman Chris Pronger, the key to the team, has missed 14 games with a hand injury and is iffy for the playoffs although the team remains hopeful he'll be ready for Game One next Thursday.
"Chris being as snarly as he's been is a good sign," Holmgren said here today. "Today is Friday. We don't play before Thursday,"
Briere, who has 32 goals and is fourth on the team in scoring with 63 points, has missed the last two games with a groin injury but he'll be back tonight. Leading scorer Claude Giroux (25-50-75), who has been bothered by the flu, will also play. The Flyers' magic number to clinch the division is three and they'll be watching the scoreboard tonight as the Penguins, who are just one point behind them, are at Long Island.