By Sam Bush
The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have been sliding, dropping into third place in the tough Central Division, three points behind the Stars and Blues.
Chicago has one home game left against each of the division leaders, so there is plenty of time. But the standings are less important to the Blackhawks than their play heading into the postseason.
Chicago also has struggled mightily on the penalty kill, owning a league-low 63.6 success rate since Feb. 9.
That issue could again factor against the Flyers (32-23-12), who have converted 21.1 percent of its power-play chances over a 7-1-1 stretch to vault back into the East’s playoff race. Though the Flyers were 0 of 6 Tuesday against Detroit, they received two even-strength goals from Michael Raffl in a 4-3 victory to move within one point of the eighth-place Red Wings.
”We are fighting for our lives here,” said forward Wayne Simmonds (above) who added a goal. ”This was a pretty exciting game to get up for. It’s pretty easy to get up for.”
Philly, which owns two games in hand on Detroit, amassed 46 shots and has recorded 21 goals in winning four of five. Raffl has four goals and three assists over that span and rookie Shayne Gostisbehere has four goals over his last four after also scoring Tuesday.
The Flyers have lost two straight in Chicago but have won 18 of the last 22 regular-season meetings. They earned a 3-0 home victory on Oct. 14 behind Michael Neuvirth’s 30 saves.