(Photo courtesy of Kate Frese/Kate Frese Photography)
The Philadelphia Flyers (34-23-12) look to make it three in a row on Saturday afternoon when they welcome Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins (38-24-8) to the Wells Fargo Center. Game time is 1:00.
This is the second of four meetings between the two clubs and first of two in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh snapped a long losing streak to the Flyers back in January with a 4-3 victory in Pittsburgh.
So far this week, Philadelphia has defeat Detroit at home and Chicago on the road picking up four crucial points in the standings. The Flyers are now just a single point behind the Red Wings for the final playoff spot with two games in hand.
Flyers fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde has been suspended two games for elbowing, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Friday.
VandeVelde had tangled with Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews along the half-wall in the Blackhawks' zone with about 40 seconds left in the first period of Wednesday's 3-2 win, when his elbow came up and struck Toews in the head. He was penalized, but the Blackhawks were not able to score on the ensuing penalty.
VandeVelde has no prior history of discipline with the Department of Player Safety, and Toews was not injured on the play -- in fact, he scored his 25th goal of the season at 4:58 of the second period. Both players have a familiarity, as teammates at the University of North Dakota (under Dave Hakstol), and reportedly cleared the air with each other amicably after the game.
The suspension comes at an interesting time, as Jakub Voracek is speculated to return to the lineup for Saturday afternoon's game against Pittsburgh. He will forfeit $7,661.30 in salary, payable to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund, and will be eligible to return to the lineup on Tuesday in Columbus.
Through 69 games this season, VandeVelde has two goals and 13 points. He's been a steady presence alongside Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the Flyers' fourth line.
On the second end of a back-to-back, it was all about how much the Flyers could weather the storm and gut their way to a potential point or two to make the leap from the first team out to the last team in.
The Flyers were a resilient bunch twice, rallying back for the tying goal in the first and again in the second, setting them up for a third-period fight to the finish.
The Flyers only managed four shots in the third, one being a long-range shot by Radko Gudas that deflected off a Blackhawks defender and past Scott Darling. The four they allowed were all testers on Michal Neuvirth, who stood tall in making 24 saves, but mainly the third period was about a gritty finish and an effort that wins games come playoff time.
For the Flyers, already in playoff mode, it was as fitting a finish as you could find as the team made the leap into a playoff position.