The Philadelphia Flyers are in the rare position of being relegated to just playing out the string as they visit the free-falling Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Coach Peter Laviolette led Philadelphia (19-22-3) to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons - including a Stanley Cup finals trip in 2010 - but the franchise will not qualify for the first time since 2006-07.
The New York Rangers' win over Buffalo on Friday eliminated the Flyers from playoff contention, meaning they'll miss the postseason for just the second time in 20 years.
"It's the first time in a long time for Philadelphia, for myself to be eliminated not by your own doing," forward Scott Hartnell told the team's official website. "It (stinks)."
The Flyers scored just three goals during a four-game losing streak before totaling 11 in back-to-back wins this week over Montreal and the Rangers. However, they were stymied by Martin Brodeur on Thursday in a devastating 3-0 home loss to New Jersey, which was riding a 10-game losing streak.
"It was almost like men playing with kids," Hartnell said. "We lost pretty much every battle."
Now the Flyers face one of only three other East teams to have been eliminated from the playoff chase.
Philadelphia has won 11 of 13 in Raleigh and owns a 19-2-2 record in the last 23 meetings with Carolina, including victories in both meetings this season.
While the Hurricanes (17-23-3) showed some life Tuesday by rallying from a two-goal deficit midway through the final period, they fell 4-3 in overtime at Winnipeg for their 16th loss in 18 games.
"We haven't got the breaks or the results that we, to be honest, we really deserve in our performance in the last three, four weeks," coach Kirk Muller said. "So it's unfortunate because I'm really proud of the guys the way they've been battling, playing hard and playing well."
After missing Thursday's loss because of a head injury, Jeff Skinner is expected to be a game-time decision against the Flyers.
Justin Peters has started the past six games for the Hurricanes, going 1-3-1 with a 3.33 GAA. He's 0-1-0 with a 4.53 in two career appearances against the Flyers but hasn't faced them since 2010.
It's uncertain whether Dan Ellis will be available due to soreness in his knee. He's 0-6-1 with a 3.74 GAA in his last eight games but hasn't played since April 8.
Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who took the loss Thursday, allowed six goals but stopped 69 shots in winning both meetings with Carolina this season.
Steve Mason, though, could get the start after finishing with 38 saves in a 4-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday. Mason, acquired earlier this month from Columbus, has a 1.50 GAA while winning each of his four career starts against the Hurricanes.
Philadelphia center Danny Briere looks to snap a 17-game scoreless drought. He had a goal in each of the first two matchups with Carolina, including the game-winner in a 4-3 overtime victory Feb. 9 in the last meeting.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved