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NHL on NBCSN: Flyers open ‘make it or break it’ portion of schedule against Capitals

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Washington Capitals at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Last year, the Capitals ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy and although they aren’t light years ahead of everyone this time around, they remain the top team in the NHL heading into tonight’s game.

But as hot as they’ve been, the Caps are finding out that coming back from the bye week is no easy task. Before their six-day break, Washington had rattled off six consecutive victories over Boston, Montreal, Los Angeles, Carolina, Detroit and Anaheim. Since the end of their break, they’ve dropped back-to-back games to the Red Wings and Rangers.

It’s the first time since Dec. 27-29 that the Capitals dropped two in row. Not to make excuses for them, but the condensed schedule and extended breaks have done wacky things to some good teams.

“We were just moving too slow, moving the puck too slow and not moving our legs quick enough,” Matt Niskanen said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers, per the Washington Post. “It showed. . . . We’re shaking off the rust a bit, but the second two periods is a step in the right direction.”As Niskanen mentioned, the Caps looked better as the game wore on, but in both losses, sluggish starts have been an issue. We’ll see if they can fix that tonight.Unlike Washington, Philadelphia’s spot in the playoffs is far from secure.The Flyers enter tonight’s game three points back of the Florida Panthers for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference (they’ve played one more game than Florida).This will be Philadelphia’s first game back home after their Western Canadian swing. The first two games of that trip didn’t go very well, as they were outscored 9-4 in a pair of losses to Calgary and Edmonton, but they salvaged the trip with a 3-2 win over Vancouver on Sunday.Starting tonight, the Flyers will begin a tough stretch of games. They’ll close out the month with a road tilt against Pittsburgh before returning home to face the last-place Avs. Things will get even tougher for them in March, as they’ll play 15 games in 30 days. Of those 15 contests, 13 will come against Eastern Conference opponents.

“It is make it or break it. That’s it,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said, per Philly.com. “You are either in the playoffs or no, and you are going to play against the hardest teams and it is going to be a little bit of a dogfight for us.”
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