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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Flyers Notebook: Tough road ahead

Posted by Eric Fisher On March 12

If the Flyers want to reach the postseason, they’re going to have to earn it. Well, they’ve already earned it with their remarkable turnaround since being in last place in the NHL in January.

The Flyers and Senators were the two worst teams in the NHL in mid-January, but, after Monday’s 3-2 win over the Senators, the Flyers are 24 points ahead of the Senators and just three points out of a playoff position.

The Flyers (76 points) have scratched and clawed their way from the NHL basement into the playoff picture. But now the going gets even tougher.

Eleven of the Flyers’ remaining 13 games are against teams currently in playoff position (including the Canadiens, who are tied for the eighth and final berth in the Eastern Conference). Six of those 13 games will be played in back-to-back situations, beginning with Thursday and Friday against the Capitals and Maple Leafs. The defending-champion Capitals dominated the Flyers last week while building a 5-0 lead. After their rematch with the Capitals (7 p.m.), the Flyers will hit the road to face the Maple Leafs (7 p.m.) less than 24 hours later.

The Flyers will visit the Penguins on Sunday (7:30 p.m.) before returning home on Tuesday (7 p.m.) to battle the Canadiens, who, along with the Blue Jackets, are three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers will visit the Blackhawks on Thurs., March 21, two days before weekend meetings with the Islanders and Capitals. This back-to-back weekend slate includes the Flyers’ third games in three weeks against both the Islanders and Capitals.

The Flyers will face the Maple Leafs again on Wed., March 27, this time in Philadelphia, before enduring yet another weekend featuring back-to-back games, this time against the Hurricanes and Rangers.

The Flyers have a daunting task in front of them. But they didn’t shy away from the monumental challenge they faced midway through this season, so there’s no reason to expect them to back down now.

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MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE: The NHL’s decision to suspend Flyers forward Jakub Voracek for two games was absurd. Why? Let us count the ways.

Let’s start with the incident. Voracek was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference following a collision with Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk during Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Islanders. Was Voracek guilty of interference? Yes. The puck was winding around the boards, but it had not yet reached Voracek, who was in the left defensive zone circle. A major penalty, however, was too much. This wasn’t a blind-side hit. Boychuk was skating toward Voracek, not the other way around. Boychuk could have skated around Voracek to get to the puck. Instead, he tried to go through him. Voracek braced his back and moved his upper body slightly backward as Boychuk barreled toward him.

The suspension is also absurd when compared to other recent incidents involving the Flyers. Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, a player with a long history of stick infractions, received a one-game suspension earlier this year for recklessly swinging his stick toward the head of Flyers forward Michael Raffl. Devils forward Kurtis Gabriel was suspended for one game earlier this month for checking Flyers center Nolan Patrick into the boards from behind. Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha didn’t even get invited to a disciplinary hearing after he pushed captain Claude Giroux’s head into the boards from behind.

All of these incidents were worse than what happened between Voracek and Boychuk on Sunday. The difference is that Raffl, Patrick and Giroux weren’t injured. Boychuk appeared to injure his shoulder and is listed by the Islanders as being in concussion protocol.

Too often the NHL seems to hand out discipline based on the severity of the injury caused by the infraction. If Giroux or Patrick had suffered a concussion, suspensions would likely have resulted. If Malkin’s stick had injured Raffl, the Penguins star might be looking at a 5- to 10-game suspension. And if Boychuk had fallen to the ice uninjured, Voracek would have received a two-minute interference penalty and no suspension.

Because Boychuk was injured, the NHL used some twisted logic to create a convoluted reason for Voracek’s suspension. The decision was ludicrous.

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SAVING GRACE: Carter Hart has been such an important part of the Flyers’ reversal of fortune, but the Flyers’ momentum didn’t stop when he was injured. Brian Elliott, playing his first games after a three-month absence, has compiled a 5-1 record since returning against the Penguins in an overtime win at Lincoln Financial Field. His only loss came last week when he was chased by the Capitals with 4 goals on 19 shots. When Elliott was sidelined, nobody would have dared predict that he was going to give the Flyers a huge lift as they look toward the playoffs.

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EIGHT IS ENOUGH: After not starting for eight games due to a “lower body” injury, rookie goaltender Carter Hart is expected to return to action Thursday (7:30 p.m.) against the Capitals. Hart served as a backup goalie during Monday’s 3-2 win over the Senators.

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EIGHT IS ENOUGH II: When Cam Talbot started in goal against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 28, he became the eighth goalie to start this season for the Flyers, an NHL record..

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WINNING RAFFL: Michael Raffl celebrated his 400th NHL game (all with the Flyers) on Monday with a goal and an assist. Raffl has six goals and 12 assists this season, but his defense is terrific, which is why his plus-minus ranking is a plus-8 despite only having 18 points.

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CATCH-22: Travis Konecny registered an assist Monday, which also was his birthday. Konecny, 22, has 22 goals and 22 assists this season. He has points in eight of his past 10 games.

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ROUNDING INTO FORM: Ivan Provorov is playing at a much higher level than he was earlier this season. Provorov was a combined plus-8 in two recent games with the Islanders despite only tallying one assist in those two games.

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FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Philippe Myers’ first NHL goal came last week as the Flyers were trying to climb out of a 5-0 hold against the Capitals.

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SLOW START FOR SIMMONDS: Wayne Simmonds only had one assist through the Predators’ first give games after he was traded by the Flyers.

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