Game Preview

The Philadelphia Flyers spent three months getting themselves into the thick of the Metropolitan Division race. Now they have to fight to stay there.

The third-place Flyers, losers of three straight (0-2-1) host the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins (38-25-4) on Wednesday night.

The Flyers (34-21-11) had won six straight before their downturn and have nine games remaining with Metro foes, including two against the Penguins. Non-division games provide no respite with Boston, Winnipeg and Vegas looming.

"We know we're in the heart of our schedule and we know the task at hand," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere told "It's up to us to battle."

Philadelphia is coming off a lost weekend that included defeats at Tampa Bay (7-6 shootout) and Florida (4-1).

The Flyers are expected to get a boost Wednesday night with the return of forward Wayne Simmonds, who missed seven games with an upper-body injury. Simmonds (20 goals, 17 assists) is expected to skate on a line with center Valtteri Filppula and winger Jordan Weal.

"I think it's about having all four lines that make sense and have all four of the lines having some chemistry," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol told the Courier Post. "That group has played together quite a bit. They had a lot of success this time last year. They played eight games together earlier this year and because of a lot of different reasons we had to go away from it, but that group is real familiar with Fil up the middle there and I think it gives us four lines that we have confidence in."

Simmonds may also aid a Flyers' power play that is 1-for-14 in its last five games.

If the Metro standings hold, Wednesday's game will be a preview of a first-round playoff series.

"It's a great rivalry, it's two teams that have long histories and storied traditions," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "There's always a heightened level of emotion associated with the games, they're the most fun to be a part of.

"I think the standings, and where each respective team sits in the standings at this time of year, just heightens the intensity and the emotion involved with this type of game."

The Penguins have won two straight -- back-to-back overtime wins against the Islanders and Flames -- after losing three in a row. On Monday, they were 4-3 winners over Calgary on Justin Schultz's fourth goal of the season.

Tristan Jarry made 35 saves, blanking the Flames in the third period and overtime to improve to 12-5-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average.

"He's just calm," Bryan Rust told the Post-Gazette. "He never gets too high, never gets too low. I think as a goalie, you see that in all good goalies. For him to just kind of have that next-shot focus is what makes him so good."

Pittsburgh is 14-6-0 against Metropolitan foes and have eight games remaining within the division.

"We're in a dogfight here," winger Tom Kuhnhackl told the Post-Gazette. "Everything is so close. If you lose a couple of divisional games, everything can change really quickly."

The teams last met Jan. 2 when Kuhnhackl contributed a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh's 5-1 road victory.

Hakstol told the Courier Post he is leaning toward using backup Alex Lyon in one of the team's back-to-back games with the Penguins on Wednesday and Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who is recovering from a concussion, skated on his own before Tuesday's practice.

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