By Harry Allison

After last night’s debacle in Columbus, the Flyers are seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the last playoff spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

Can the Flyers catch the Bruins?

Not in a rat’s ass!.

Here’s what they’re probably facing: The Flyers could be forced to rack up 42 points over their final 28 games to get in., which computes NHL teams’ playoff chances, had the Flyers’ odds at 6.9 percent on Wednesday. They give the Flyers a 55.1 percent shot at getting in with at 19-7-2 finish, which would get them to 95 points, and just a 43.1 percent shot with a 18-7-3 finish that would get them to 94 points.

There are a couple of big X factors working against the Flyers:

Starting goalie Steve Mason (photo above) likely will be sidelined until the beginning of March after undergoing knee surgery this week.

The Bruins and other contenders likely will get better before the NHL’s March 2 trade deadline, while the Flyers either will stand pat or be sellers, the latter of which is more likely.

The Flyers don’t have cap space to add on, but GM Ron Hextall, probably knowing his team doesn’t have what it takes to make a long playoff run, admitted on Thursday that selling off players is a possibility even if his club ends February still hot.

“Nothing has really changed,” Hextall said. “If the right deal comes along for now and for the future, we’ll make it. If it doesn’t, obviously we won’t. We’ll do everything we can to get into the playoffs short of selling off younger assets. We have our vision for the future, so we’re not going to do anything short term that’s going to hurt us long term.

You’d think Hextall has a number in his mind how many the Flyers need to be within a playoff before the trade deadline to determine if he sells.

That apparently isn’t the case.

“Not necessarily,” he said. “That’s going to be part of the equation. The other part is going to be what type of price people will pay. There’s a lot that goes into the decision making. …It’s probably a little bit early now, but as we close in here (on the deadline) we’ll gauge where we’re at and the prices and we’ll make decisions.”

Regardless of what Hextall does, the Flyers have their work cut.

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