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An interesting stretch awaits the Flyers

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In the wake of a 10-game winning streak, the Philadelphia Flyers have hit a rough patch, with just one victory in their last seven.

Granted, this would be more of a concern if they hadn’t played so well Sunday night in Anaheim, where they lost 4-3 in a shootout.

But the Flyers have lost ground all the same. They’re now just three points up on Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot, and Toronto, Florida and Carolina are lurking back there too.

Last night, the Flyers put 54 shots on Ducks goalie John Gibson, plus one more for good measure on Jonathan Bernier.

“We deserved better, we played a helluva hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said, per CSN Philly. “For the most part, our execution was pretty good and we had a lot of quality chances. Couldn’t get an extra one to go in.”

That’s hockey. During their 10-game run, the Flyers won a couple of games they easily could’ve lost. In the end, these things have a way of evening out.

“Put up 55 shots, you’re going to win most games,” said d-man Michael Del Zotto. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the two points. We’ve been in a little bit of a lull, but we keep playing like that, we’ll be successful.”

The Flyers return home to face the Rangers Wednesday (on NBCSN). Their next game after that is a big one, with the Lightning paying a visit Saturday afternoon. And after that, they play seven of their next 10 on the road, where they’re a modest 8-9-2 so far this season.

If there’s one area where Hakstol’s group could improve, it’s defensively. At 2.97, the Flyers’ goals-against average ranks 25th in the NHL. Last season, when they made the playoffs, it finished 12th at 2.26.

Obviously, some (or maybe much) of that falls on the goaltending. It was great last season; it’s been disappointing this season, save for the odd solid stretch from Steve Mason (14-12-5, .904).

In fact, Hakstol’s decision to go with Mason against the Ducks was called into question by reporters.

From CSN Philly:

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol opted to play Steve Mason, who had a bruised left forearm from the Sharks loss, rather than go with rookie Anthony Stolarz, who was completely healthy and deserved the shot after 40 impressive minutes in relief during the 2-0 defeat in San Jose.

It’s almost seemed a panic move to salvage two points from the three-game road trip. This was Mason’s 21st start in 23 games.

When pressed as to why not allow Stolarz to play, Add Contact FormHakstol said, he “gave it consideration.”

“He played very well coming in the other night,” Hakstol said. “He did an outstanding job. That being said, Mase has been the guy who has done a great job for us. I didn’t give it a whole lot of second thought.”

With Michal Neuvirth getting close to returning from his knee injury, it will be interesting to see how Hakstol deploys his netminders. Neuvirth was not playing well before he got hurt. His record was good, at 4-2-0, but his save percentage was a ghastly .859.

If Neuvirth continues to struggle when he’s healthy, it’s either going to be a very busy stretch drive for Mason, or Stolarz could be called back to make a few starts.

Stolarz, 22, is 2-0-0 with a .938 save percentage for the Flyers. He also had great numbers in the AHL (6-2-0, .927) before he was recalled.

Related: Stolarz making case to be with Flyers full-time next season

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Pre-game reading: ‘Trying to keep playing at such a high level, it was going to kill me’

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The Pioneer Press caught up with former Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, who quietly retired from professional hockey two-and-a-half years ago. That decision came after Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and made a stirring comeback with the Wild, capturing the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as a result.

In the piece, Harding talks about his final game, one in which he left an AHL game against Charlotte in an ambulance due to severe dehydration. That proved an eye-opener, one that all but cemented the need for him to hang up his skates.

More:

Sara Harding took one look at her gaunt husband on FaceTime [following the game in Charlotte] and immediately bought a one-way plane ticket from Minneapolis, not knowing when she would return — or if she would be coming back alone.

“She was really scared,” Harding recalled Tuesday. “That was the final dagger. It started hitting me that I still have a family and life to live here. People that I love and that love me, I saw how scared they were and how much it affected them. I knew it was time to put up the pads.

 “The doctors all told me if I kept doing this to my body, trying to keep playing at such a high level, it was going to kill me.”

Harding, who has attended a few Wild games since retirement, is currently working as a goalie coach at a local Minnesota high school.

— “I think there’s only three teams left in the NHL that don’t have a downtown arena, and we’re one of them and it’s tragic that we don’t. I bought the team out of bankruptcy and that’s where the arena was, and that’s what I bought. But we need to move things downtown, if it’s Ottawa it’s got to be downtown.”

That’s Sens owner Eugene Melnyk (per the Citizen) talking about Ottawa’s proposed new arena. He’s hopeful negotiations with the National Capital Commission on the development of Lebreton Flats will be completed before the end of the year, at which point construction can begin on what he promises will be a “gorgeous” complex.

— The latest development in the U.S. women’s looming boycott of the 2017 World Hockey Championships: USA Hockey has postponed a pre-tourney training camp, and an exhibition game against Finland. The organization is still hopeful it can hold a camp just prior to the start of the worlds, which will begin on Mar. 31 in Plymouth, MI. (Yahoo)