The Philadelphia Flyers hope Jeff Carter can return for the playoffs after learning this week that he would miss the rest of the regular season with a broken foot.
If their offensive struggles continue, they may not get a chance to welcome their leading goal scorer back in the postseason.
The Flyers have totaled three goals during a three-game skid, and they will look to bounce back from a shutout when they face the visiting Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
Philadelphia (37-31-5) went 9-3-2 from Feb. 8 through last Thursday despite struggling to score at times. The Flyers' lack of offense, however, finally caught up to them, as they are on their first three-game losing streak since a five-game slide from Nov. 27-Dec. 7.
The slump has put the club's playoff hopes in jeopardy. Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston are battling for the sixth through eighth spots in the Eastern Conference, but ninth-place Atlanta has pulled to within four points of the Flyers.
The Thrashers shrunk the deficit by sweeping the Flyers in a home-and-home set over the weekend, and the broken bone Carter suffered in his left foot in a 3-1 loss Sunday just made matters worse.
Philadelphia had a chance to pull into a tie for fifth place Tuesday night at Ottawa, but couldn't get anything going offensively. The Flyers were 0 for 6 on the power play in a 2-0 defeat that had captain Mike Richards questioning the team's desire.
"It seems like we have a lack of motivation, which obviously shouldn't be there, and a lack of urgency," said Richards, whose 28 goals are second to Carter's 33. "It's frustrating to go through a game like that and not see everyone play their hardest."
The Flyers fell to 9-19-2 when they fail to score with the man advantage.
Richards leads Philadelphia with 13 power-play goals, but has none in 13 games since the Olympic break. The Flyers are 17-3-2 when Richards scores.
He has not done so in four career games against Minnesota (35-32-6), which beat Philadelphia 2-1 in St. Paul on Feb. 6. Anton Khudobin made 39 saves in his only NHL start.
That was an emergency appearance because of injuries to Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and Backstrom had barely recovered from his sore back before injuring his groin and missing the Wild's seven games from March 11-21.
He returned Tuesday to face visiting San Jose but showed some rust, allowing three goals on 16 shots in a 4-1 loss.
"I think the desire and will was there. We played a very good team and we had our opportunities and were unable to cash in," coach Todd Richards said. "Backstrom was good, but they obviously finished more than we did."
Backstrom has gone 0-2 with a 3.03 goals-against average in two starts versus Philadelphia.
The Flyers are down to Brian Boucher as their only healthy goaltender with NHL experience now that Ray Emery and Michael Leighton are out, but he likely won't be anxious to see Minnesota. Boucher, who has never faced the Wild as a Flyer, went 1-2-2 with a 3.67 GAA in his last five starts against them.