Flyers Recognize Importance of Upcoming Metropolitan Division-heavy Schedule

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Throughout the Flyers' recent 10-game winning streak, Wayne Simmonds would reinforce after every victory how the Flyers simply had to keep pace with everyone else in the Metropolitan Division.
Pittsburgh, Columbus, Washington and the Flyers all had a simultaneous, combined winning streak of 29 games through Dec. 15, according to Elias.
The Flyers had won 10 while Pittsburgh and Columbus had won seven each and the Caps won five over that span, dating back to late November.
Beginning with Wednesday’s visit from the Caps at Wells Fargo Center, eight of the Flyers' next 16 games and 25 of the final 48 games this season are against Metro foes.
“Four-point games,” Simmonds beamed on Tuesday. “We've got to realize these are four-point games every time we play a division opponent. They have a couple games in hand on us.”
Washington has a whopping four games in hand on the Flyers, too. The Blue Jackets have five games in hand. That’s a potential 10 points the Flyers can’t get.
“Our division is pretty strong this year,” Simmonds said. “We want to get every single point, especially, against our division. We have to make sure we’re playing our brand of hockey.”
There’s been a noticeable defensive shift from head coach Barry Trotz's Capitals, as evidenced by their low total 64 goals allowed. Only the Blue Jackets (60) and Minnesota Wild (58) have allowed less .
“It’s the same group,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol. “Their defense is a little more active offensively, but no question, defensively, they’ve been good. They don’t give up a whole lot and they’re a tough team to play against. Time and space are a real premium.”
Strangely, the highly explosive Caps have been sagging offensively this season. The Caps have scored just 80 goals, a disappointing, middle-of-the-pack number for a team with so much firepower. No Caps are among the top 24 scorers in the NHL.
Nicklas Backstrom (25th overall) leads them with 27 points.
Alex Ovechkin? He has 23 points and leads the team with 14 goals.
“Ovie, when he starts playing, he can be the best player in the world,” Claude Giroux said. “Maybe he’s not having the season he’s looking for right now, but they are finding ways to win and at the end of the day, that’s what it is.
“Stats obviously show if you are having a good season or not, but at the same time, it doesn’t really show what you bring to the team. He brings a lot to that team.”
This is the first meeting between these two clubs since the Caps eliminated the Flyers last spring in the playoffs.
“We know what they are about,” said Brayden Schenn. “Obviously, there’s a little rivalry there and the teams don’t really like one another. But that will get the guys going and hopefully it will be a bounce back game for us.”
Recall Schenn began this season serving a three-game suspension he picked up in Game 6 last April for his charging penalty and head shot on T.J. Oshie.
“Wash, Pittsburgh, New York [Rangers], we have pretty intense games against those three teams,” Simmonds said. “I honestly don’t think I could choose one being more intense than the other. They all mean something to us.”
None of the Flyers specifically target last year’s playoffs as the focal point of reminder for this game. It’s really about the points right now.
Nearing the very end of the Flyers' win streak, they were within two points of the first place Penguins in the Metro.
After one loss, the Flyers fell to fifth. After two losses, they are fourth in the division, yet holding the first wild card.
That shows how tight the Metro is, how much parity exists and how devastating a single loss to a divisional opponent can be.
Just six points separate the first-place Rangers and fifth-place Caps.
“I’m not going to start standings watch, but every point is critical,” Hakstol said. “When you are within your division, there is more importance on it. It doesn’t change the way your prepare or the way you play.
“Is there a little added importance? Yeah, absolutely, it’s so tight. Even though we’re only 30-some games in, you have to fight like heck for every point, especially, within the division.”
CHOP visit

Every year, the Flyers make the holiday rounds to certain hospitals. Schenn, Simmonds, Michael Del Zotto, Jakub Voracek, Steve Mason, Michael Raffl, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny will visit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Tuesday.
They’re bringing the kids some holiday gifts. The players will also oversee a round of BINGO inside Ryan Seacrest Studio, and assist the kids with arts and crafts.
Konecny, a rookie, will wear the traditional Flyer-orange Santa Claus outfit.
“You know what? This is first news for me,” said Konecny, who didn’t know about the Santa garb until reporters told him. “Someone hinted something about it in the room. I’m sure that’s why I was invited.”
Asked if he would wear a fat suit, he said he wasn’t sure how big the suit would be. Konecny weighs less than 180 pounds.
“I guess I’ll be Santa Claus,” he conceded. “This is great. We’ll have a good time. Go see the kids here, give them some gifts. Just hanging out and giving them a chance to meet some of the players, it’s going to be a great day.”

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