(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers hope to jump right back into the fray and pick up a fifth straight victory when they emerge from the NHL's Olympic break on Thursday to host the San Jose Sharks.
Philadelphia was one of several NHL clubs that had hot streaks interrupted by the Sochi Olympics. The Flyers won their final four games prior to the break to match the club's longest winning streak of the season.
If the regular season ended now, the Flyers would be in the playoffs as they currently are occupying the third of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic bids to the postseason. However, the Flyers are only three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for that distinction and Philly is hoping to keep building on that margin by picking up where it left off before the Olympics.
"The break was good mentally for a lot of the guys," Flyers forward Brayden Schenn recently told his team's official website. "But you can just tell around the room that there's a good atmosphere here right now. Guys are already ready to go because it is the most important and exciting part of the season."
Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen won't be in the lineup on Thursday, as the Olympian is getting extra rest after helping Finland win bronze at the Sochi Games. The 38-year-old expects to be in the lineup on Saturday when the Flyers host the rival New York Rangers.
The Flyers start off their post-Olympics schedule against San Jose, which had an 13-game unbeaten streak in this series halted when Philly notched a 5-2 win at the Shark Tank on Feb. 3. The win was the first for the Flyers in the series since Dec. 21, 2000 and the club's first victory in San Jose since Nov. 5, 1999.
San Jose still enters Thursday's test having won its last five road games against the Flyers.
The Sharks had won two straight and three of four prior to the Olympic break and they are currently sitting in second place in the Pacific Division. San Jose is seven points behind Anaheim for the division's top spot and is 10 points ahead of third-place Los Angeles.
San Jose forward Logan Couture is expected to play for the first time since Jan. 5 this evening in Philadelphia. Couture, who is fourth on the Sharks with 35 points on 14 goals and 21 assists this season, had been sidelined with a broken right hand.
Meanwhile, Sharks forward Raffi Torres is expected to make his season debut on Thursday after missing the entire campaign up to this point due to an injured knee. Torres, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL, had seven goals and 11 assists in 39 regular-season games with Phoenix and San Jose last season.
The Sharks, who are 15-12-3 as the visiting team this season, are kicking off a three-game road trip tonight. San Jose also will stop in Buffalo and New Jersey before returning home.