FLYERS START PUSH TO PLAYOFFS TONIGHT AGAINST COYOTES

By Jack Ryan

If the Flyers have any hope of salvaging this awful season and making the playoffs, they have to start tonight against the Arizona Coyotes at the Wells.

Having won two of three before the All-Star game break, the Flyers will try to keep their momentum going Tuesday night against a slumping Coyotes team that’s without its leading goal scorer.

Jakub Voracek (photo above) got a big stage to showcase the talents that have made him the league leader with 39 assists and 56 points. He tied Mario Lemieux’s All-Star mark with six points – three goals and three assists – in Team Toews’ 17-12 win over Team Foligno on Sunday in Columbus.

Philly went into the break on a positive note with a 3-2 overtime victory against Pittsburgh last Tuesday, and Voracek assisted on captain Claude Giroux’s winning goal. Giroux, who opposed Voracek in the All-Star game, is tied for third in the league with 35 assists and 51 points.

“Their forwards up front are really their strength,” Arizona captainShane Doan said. “Their guys offensively are so good so we’re going to have to be good.”

Despite the efforts of their two All-Stars, the Flyers (19-22-7) are facing a 12-point deficit in the playoff race.

“We’ve been in this position for a while now. At times, we’ve played good hockey then at times we get off page and lose a couple games in a row,” defenseman Mark Streit said. “Obviously, that can’t happen anymore. We’ve got to play the right way. We’ve got to play our hockey. Every game means the world to us right now.”

Philly will get to play its next four games at home, where it’s won four of six, and has a prime chance at another victory given Arizona’s recent woes.

The Coyotes (16-25-5) have dropped a season-worst six in a row, getting outscored 24-9 in that 0-5-1 skid, and are 16 points back in the playoff hunt. They lost 6-1 in Chicago in their final game before the break last Tuesday, and their four-game road losing streak is one short of matching a season high.

“What we’ve done up to this point has been unacceptable, and we have to be better,” Doan said. “The last game in Chicago was embarrassing.”

Mikkel Boedker is week-to-week after having his spleen removed following a 4-3 shootout loss in Winnipeg on Jan. 18. The winger, who has 14 goals and 14 assists, had played 257 consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak in team history.

Boedker had two assists in a 4-2 home win over Philadelphia on Dec. 29, while Antoine Vermette led the way with two goals and an assist. R.J. Umberger scored twice in the third period for the Flyers.

Philly is 7-4-1 in its last 12 home games against Arizona, falling 2-1 in the most recent one Oct. 11, 2013.

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