The Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens continue to jockey for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The winner of their next contest will get to hold that spot for at least two weeks.
In the teams' final game before the Olympic break, the Flyers look to sweep a crucial home-and-home series from the Canadiens on Saturday night in Montreal.
Philadelphia (31-25-3) opened the series with a 4-2 win Friday, jumping ahead of Montreal (29-27-6) with 23 games left. The Canadiens have 20 games remaining.
"It's sink or swim right now," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "You're either going to continue to hold your ground, move up, or go backward with not much time left. If you go backwards, it's going to be really difficult to take steps forward. Everybody's getting points every night, so it's important to make sure you get as many points as you can.
"We have one big game left, and it's big for the Canadiens, so there's a great sense of urgency. They are desperate to make the playoffs as well, so we need to be ready."
This is the teams' final game until March 2, when Montreal visits Boston and Philadelphia travels to Tampa Bay.
The Flyers, winners of three straight, are trying to avoid a letdown.
After being held to a total of one goal in losses at Edmonton and Minnesota, Philadelphia came back from two-goal deficits in consecutive games against New Jersey and Canadian Olympic goaltender Martin Brodeur. Then, the Flyers held a 3-0 lead after two periods against the Canadiens.
"You want to go into the break feeling good about yourselves, and playing your best hockey," said Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger, who will team up with Brodeur at the Olympics.
The Flyers are coming off their first home win against the Canadiens since March 6, 2006. Now, Philadelphia will try to end its struggles at the Bell Center, where it is 2-6-1 in the regular season since the start of 2005-06.
The Flyers, though, took two of three there en route to winning the conference semifinals in 2008.
Center Jeff Carter was held without a point in five of his previous eight games against Montreal before scoring twice Friday. Carter has four goals in his last three games after being held off the scoresheet in his previous three contests.
Philadelphia will likely give goalie Michael Leighton his sixth straight start. He has played well in place of Ray Emery, who will be rested through the Olympic break as he nurses a tight left hip.
Leighton has given up two goals or fewer in five straight games. Over the first two periods, he shut out a Canadiens team that beat Washington 6-5 in overtime two days earlier to end the Caps' franchise-record 14-game winning streak.
The Canadiens have won four of their last five at home, scoring five goals or more three times.
Montreal leading scorer Tomas Plekanec, who will represent the Czech Republic at the Olympics, was held without a point after posting six goals and five assists in his previous nine games. Plekanec (60 points) has not found the back of the net in nine home games versus Philadelphia.