Flyers and Maple Leafs Set for Most Significant Battle Since 2004

TORONTO -- Most of the players in Thursday's game involving the Maple Leafs and Flyers weren't around in the spring of 2004 playing in the NHL.
Which is why tonight's game is easily the most significant head-to-head contest involving these two franchises this late in a season since that historic playoff series.
Fact is, the Maple Leafs haven't been in a playoff chase for a long time and now both they and the Flyers are locked in a wild-card battle, upping the ante.
And just to make it all the more intriguing from the Flyers' standpoint, goalie Michal Neuvirth will be in net for this very important game, not Steve Mason.
"No, not at all, I don't really care," Neuvirth said, alluding to the past. "This is just another really big game for us.
"It's really tight in the standings. For us, every game is big whether Colorado, Toronto or Pittsburgh."
Neuvirth's career numbers aren't sterling against Toronto, but they are significantly better than Mason's. He has a 2.83 goals against average and .902 save percentage with a 9-4-1 record.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said, however, that's not why Neuvirth is starting this game. Mason had the net the previous four games.
"The schedule dictates it," Hakstol said. "Mase has been real good. He's done a great job for us and Neuvy has to do the same thing for us tonight.
"You look at the schedule right now, one guy is not going to be able to run the table. It's a good night for Neuvy to go in and do a job for his teammates."
Asked about the statistical difference -- Mason's GAA against the Leafs is 3.43 -- Hakstol said, "You try to factor some of those things in, but it wasn't the dominant factor in Neuvy getting the start."
Hakstol said his players are keenly aware this is an impact game with huge playoff implications, regardless of the past history between the two clubs.
"Everybody knows what is at stake," Hakstol said. "That doesn't need to be spoken of in terms of what is at stake this time of year. ...
"It still comes down to get ready and prepared, regardless of everything that surrounds the importance of the game. No question [history] adds to it. I don't think anybody is trying to downplay the significance ..."
Certainly, not Leafs coach Mike Babcock.
"It's an important game for us and for them," Babcock said. "We know where we're at. You want to be right in it right to the end. ... It should be fun."
On Filppula
Babcock coached Flyers newcomer Valterri Filppula for the first eight years of his NHL career.
"He's probably a better player [now]," Babcock said. "I would think he's improved his game. He's a real good skater. A real good man ... he does things right as a pro. He plays well with the puck and he distributes it well."
Filppula, who waived his no-movement clause at the trade deadline to come to the Flyers, admitted that Toronto was not on his list of clubs and the timing was such where the Leafs could not be added.
"I made a list earlier and the trade deadline came really quick," Filppula said. "I made the decision over the summer. Nothing against Toronto, obviously they have a great team and a coach who coached me before. Things happen so quick. ... You have to make some decisions. I'm here now and happy to be here."

Tonight's lineup 
F: Weal-Giroux-Simmonds
D: Provorov-MacDonald
Del Zotto-Gudas
G: Neuvirth

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