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Flyers try to lock up 3rd place in clash with rival Pens
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers will continue their fight for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, as they visit the rival Pittsburgh Penguins for Saturday's afternoon battle at Consol Energy Center.
The Flyers are tied at 91 points with Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division, but have a game in hand as well as one more non- shootout victory over the Blue Jackets, who lost in regulation to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
That setback means that Philadelphia can clinch third place in the Metropolitan with a victory this afternoon.
The team finishing third in the division will face the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. The Rangers locked up second place and home-ice advantage in the first round after Thursday's win against Buffalo.
Philadelphia clinched a postseason berth after posting a second straight win Tuesday night at Florida, but the Flyers lost for the fifth time in seven games following Thursday's 4-2 setback in Tampa.
Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson each had a goal and an assist to help the Lightning down the Flyers. Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier scored for Philadelphia, while Ray Emery gave up four goals on 30 shots to take the loss.
"To be honest with you, I thought we were taking the play to them in the third period," said Philadelphia head coach Craig Berube.
Nicklas Grossmann missed Thursday's game with an injured right ankle is the Flyers defenseman is questionable for today's game.
The Flyers are wrapping a three-game swing as well as their regular-season road schedule today. Philadelphia, which closes the regular season tomorrow against visiting Carolina, is 17-16-7 as the away team this season.
Philadelphia has won three straight against the Penguins since dropping the opener of the season series at home on Oct. 17. The Flyers have won two straight, three of four and eight of the last 10 regular-season meetings in the Steel City.
The Flyers and Penguins could wind up playing each other in the first round if Philadelphia finishes in the East's first wild card spot. Pittsburgh clinched the Metro Division title and is locked into the East's second spot.
Pittsburgh has won two straight and three of its last four games. The Pens notched a 4-3 shootout victory over Detroit on Wednesday, as Jussi Jokinen scored the lone goal of the decisive phase.
Jokinen, Pittsburgh's third skater, entered the zone close to the right boards and weaved his way towards the slot. He lost control of the puck just as Detroit netminder Jonas Gustavsson went for a poke check. The puck bounced up into the air and rolled into the net for the game winner.
James Neal scored two power-play goals and Jokinen also scored in regulation for the Penguins. Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin both supplied two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 34 shots in the win.
The Penguins got a boost from several players returning to the lineup. Kris Letang returned after missing 10 weeks due to a stroke he suffered on Jan. 29. The 2013 Norris Trophy finalist contributed an assist and logged 22:30 in his first game back. Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, and Olli Maatta were also re- inserted into the lineup.
"I felt pretty good," Letang said. "I'm just happy to be on the ice."
Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin is still sidelined with a sprained foot, but he could be ready to go when the playoffs begin next week. Malkin has missed the last nine games.
The Pens are closing the regular season on a three-game road trip that is set to end tomorrow against Ottawa. Pittsburgh boasts a 28-9-2 record as the host this season.
Steve Mason could get the call in net for the Flyers on Saturday and is 4-2-1 with a 2.65 goals against average and .915 save percentage in seven career outings against the Pens.
Fleury is 24-15-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .902 save percentage against Philadelphia in his career. Pens backup Jeff Zatkoff's only career outing against the Flyers came in a March 16 home loss in which he stopped 19-of-20 shots.
04/12 08:05:14 ET
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