The Philadelphia Flyers have the favorable schedule the last week of the season to claim the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They just need to play better than they have recently to do so.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions try to keep their hold on the No. 1 spot Tuesday night when they take to the road and play the Ottawa Senators.
While Philadelphia (46-22-11) is tied with Washington for the East lead with 103 points, it does hold the tiebreaker over the Capitals by virtue of more regulation and overtime wins. The Flyers, though, also have yet to clinch the Atlantic Division title as they enter this game with a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with three games remaining.
After this game, Philadelphia will face a Buffalo Sabres team fighting to simply make the playoffs, then close the season against the New York Islanders, who are last in the Atlantic.
"We're in a good spot," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told the team's official website. "We should just go slow with it. I think before we start talking about winning three games and just make sure we win one game and really make sure our efforts are concentrated on really what is going to be a tough game."
That single-game focus may be vital since Philadelphia has gotten just three points in its last five (1-3-1). The Flyers went 0 for 4 on the power play in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday and are 2 for 29 with the man advantage in their last 11 games.
Laviolette hopes playing Ottawa will spark Mike Richards, who has four goals and three assists in the first three games of the season series. The center has two assists during a six-game goal-scoring drought.
Second-year forward James van Riemsdyk has picked up some of the slack with five goals in his last six games. The left wing has two goals and two assists in six career games versus the Senators.
Ottawa (30-39-10) will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and will play out the string without captain Daniel Alfredsson. The right wing has not played since Feb. 7 due to a sore back, which has not healed as quickly as he would like.
Alfredsson, who has played a franchise-record 1,056 games and finished this season with 14 goals and 17 assists, said he will return for his 16th season in 2011-12.
"It's been a frustrating year for a lot of reasons ... but I expect to be back next year," he told the team's official website. "The progress has been going pretty good. But skating has been the one thing that has troubled me the most. I felt okay on the ice, but not good enough to justify playing in a game."
The Senators have dropped two of three after a 4-2 defeat to provincial rival Toronto on Saturday. Jason Spezza scored both goals for Ottawa and has seven goals and nine assists in his last 12 games.
Philadelphia won this season's first two meetings between the teams before Ottawa got 30 saves from Craig Anderson in a 4-1 home victory Feb. 26.
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