Flyers-Maple Leafs 5 Things: Wild-card Race Gets Hotter

Flyers (31-26-8) at Maple Leafs (29-22-14)
7:30 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7

The wild-card race heats up Thursday night when the Flyers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Let's get you set for puck drop with five things to know:

1. Wild climb
With points in their last four games, the Flyers are right on the heels of the Maple Leafs in the fight for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth.

A regulation victory would draw the Flyers even with Toronto in the points column at 72. Both teams trail the Islanders, who currently hold the second wild-card bid at 73 points. Right behind the Maple Leafs and Flyers are the Lightning and Panthers, both at 69 points.

New York visits the Canucks at 10 p.m. Thursday, while Tampa Bay hosts the Wild at 7:30 p.m. and Florida is idle.

Philadelphia Flyers

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The Islanders, Maple Leafs, Flyers, Lightning and Panthers all have 17 games remaining.

2. Getting even
The Flyers will try to build off their offensive explosion last time out.

Entering Tuesday's action with the NHL's fewest goals since New Year's Eve (49 in 26 games), the Flyers broke loose for six markers in a win over the Sabres. All six goals came at even strength, a season high for the power play-reliant Flyers.

Ten different Flyers registered at least a point. Defenseman Radko Gudas led the way with a goal, two assists and a plus-5 rating. Claude Giroux snapped a 12-game goal drought, while young forwards Travis Konecny and Jordan Weal also lit the lamp.

Touching up Buffalo and goalie Robin Lehner is nothing to write home about, but the Flyers showed they're capable of such production.

"It's a boost for the confidence," Sean Couturier said postgame Tuesday. "Everyone contributing, we've got all four lines rolling and that's what we need the rest of the year if we want to make the playoffs."

3. A new Leaf
Speaking of offense, the Maple Leafs have plenty of it.

Behind two 19-year-olds, Toronto ranks sixth in goals per game (3.02) and third in power-play percentage (22.9). The Maple Leafs also come at you in a hurry as they're tied with the Capitals in first-period goals at 67, while the Flyers have 35.

Teenage rookies Auston Matthews and Mitch Garner make up the league's most exciting young duo. Matthews, the No. 1 overall pick this past summer, has 31 goals and 24 assists to lead Toronto with 55 points. Garner, the fourth overall pick in 2015, is first among all rookies with 37 assists and has 52 points. Oh, and don't forget William Nylander, a 20-year-old that's fourth among NHL rookies with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists).

When the Flyers last visited the Maple Leafs, they allowed four third-period goals to blow a 3-2 lead for a 6-3 loss.

Toronto is eyeing just its second postseason appearance over the past 12 seasons.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Wayne Simmonds has gone oddly quiet the past three games with zero points. There's no way that continues, especially considering Simmonds has three goals in two games against the Maple Leafs this season.

Maple Leafs: Former Flyer James van Riemsdyk is fresh off his first goal in 15 games as Toronto beat the Red Wings on Tuesday, 3-2. The 27-year-old, who has 20 goals and 29 assists this season, owns four tallies in 11 career games against his old club.

5. This and that
*
Steve Mason has started four straight games, while Michal Neuvirth hasn't played since the outdoor game on Feb. 25. Thursday's starter was unknown following Wednesday's practice.

* Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen is 5-0-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in five career games against the Flyers.

* Toronto has an NHL-most 14 overtime/shootout losses.

* The Maple Leafs are 1-2-3 in their last six games.

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