The Philadelphia Flyers will try to continue their strong month with a second straight victory when they host the Montreal Canadiens tonight at Wells Fargo Center.
Although the Flyers have split their last four games, the team has gained 19 of a possible 24 points so far this month, posting a 9-2-1 record since the calendar flipped to March.
However, the solid month has not been good enough to allow Philly to keep pace with the sizzling Pittsburgh Penguins, who are 13-0-1 in their last 14 games and lead the Flyers by four points for the Eastern Conference's fourth seed. Pittsburgh is also in action tonight, as it visits the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.
The fifth-seeded Flyers are also four points ahead of the idle New Jersey Devils in the conference standings.
The Flyers are coming off Thursday's shootout win over the visiting Washington Capitals, a victory that improved Philadelphia's record to 2-1 on a five-game homestand. The residency is scheduled to end Monday against Tampa Bay.
As has often been the case for the Flyers in March, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov came up big once again for Philadelphia in the 2-1 decision over the Capitals. Bryzgalov, winner of the NHL's last two First Star of the Week awards, made 30 saves through regulation and overtime and ended the contest with a stop on Troy Brouwer in the shootout phase.
Wayne Simmonds scored the winner for the Flyers in the fourth round of the shootout, as he beat Caps netminder Braden Holtby with a simple, hard wrister to start the round. Bryzgalov followed with a blocker save on Brouwer to seal the victory.
"We are just trying to take it one game at a time and win some games. We will see how it goes," said Bryzgalov when asked if having home ice in the first round is stoking his club's fire down the stretch.
Claude Giroux scored a pretty goal in regulation for the Flyers, who are 20-11-5 as the host this season.
Philadelphia is capping its four-game season series against the Canadiens tonight. The Flyers have won the last two encounters and five of six overall in the series. Montreal has lost three straight and four of its last five tilts in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Canadiens did well in a spoiler role on Friday night, trouncing the visiting Ottawa Senators, 5-1. Erik Cole netted a natural hat trick in the first period and Montreal coasted to the win, which halted a three-game losing streak.
Petteri Nokelainen and Lars Eller also lit the lamp, while P.K. Subban, David Desharnais and Chris Campoli all had two assists for the Canadiens. Carey Price made 37 saves in the victory.
"It was good to get pucks at the net," Cole said. "I tried to step by their defenseman and they slumped their shoulders a bit as we gained momentum. It was a good start for us and Carey made big saves in the early going. I was excited for the third goal, but one night doesn't change our standings. As a group we were five men strong sticking up for each other."
The Canadiens are tied for last in the East with the New York Islanders and have been all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. The Habs are 11 points out of a playoff spot with just seven games to play.
Montreal has lost its last three road games and is 15-18-4 as the guest this season.
The Canadiens have been without forward Scott Gomez for five straight games due to a concussion, while defenseman Tomas Kaberle has sat out four in a row because of an upper-body injury. Gomez is expected to miss another test this evening, while Kaberle is questionable to return.
Defenseman Yannick Weber also left Friday's game with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight.