January 05, 2015

The Philadelphia Flyers close the regular season with four of six games against teams hovering around them in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

First, they'll look to win the season series against one that they had a hand in eliminating earlier this week.

With key dates on the schedule looming, the Flyers try to hold onto the second wild-card spot when they host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Sam Gagner's shootout goal secured Wednesday's 2-1 victory over league-leading Washington, and the scene that followed resembled a playoff victory celebration.

Philadelphia (38-25-13) won after regulation for the second straight game, picking up two extra points and giving them a 14-4-3 mark in their last 21 as they've surged into playoff position.

But there's still plenty of work left. Philadelphia plays twice against Pittsburgh, which holds the second automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, and once against the New York Islanders - the first wild-card holder - and Detroit, the first team outside the East playoff picture.

The Flyers' remaining six games come in three back-to-back sets over nine days. Half of them are at home, where Philadelphia has gone 9-2-1 in its last 12.

''This is the time of year you want to be playing hockey that means something,'' center Brayden Schenn said. ''We've been scratching and clawing for a while now. We've been playing playoff hockey. As a team, we're jelling.''

Schenn scored the late tying goal Wednesday in what might have been a preview of a first-round playoff series.

It was the sixth straight game Steve Mason has allowed two or fewer goals, a run in which he's posted a 1.61 goals-against average. He has started seven in a row since backup Michal Neuvirth tore the meniscus in his left knee.

With Neuvirth out for the remainder of the regular season and rookie Anthony Stolarz yet to make his NHL debut, the Flyers announced they're signing veteran Ray Emery. He won't be eligible for the playoffs because he signed after the trade deadline, but presumably will give the team an experienced option to handle at least a game or two amid the back-to-backs.

The 33-year-old went 10-11-7 with a 3.06 GAA as Philadelphia's backup last season.

Mason has two career shutouts against the Senators (36-33-9), but he surrendered six total goals as the teams split the opening two meetings this season.

The Flyers' 4-2 win at Ottawa on Dec. 1 snapped a three-game skid in the series. They're 6-2-1 at home against the Senators over the last six seasons.

The Senators are among seven Canadian teams that will be absent from the playoffs, the first time Canada will be without a postseason team since 1970. They were eliminated despite Wednesday's 2-1 win at Winnipeg when Philadelphia beat the Capitals.

Erik Karlsson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Cody Ceci scored and Craig Anderson made 23 saves in Thursday's 3-2 victory at Minnesota, Ottawa's second straight.

Pageau also had two assists while Karlsson added one. Karlsson's 78 points match his career high set in 2011-12 and are the most by a defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom's 80 in 2005-06.

Ceci's winning tally with 3:57 left was shot from behind the Wild net and deflected off two Minnesota players and in.

''It's funny that we start getting (bounces) now when we're eliminated, but we'll take them,'' Ceci said. ''It's nice to finish strong in the season.''

Mark Stone sat with a chest injury and won't play in the season-ending three-game road trip. His 61 points are second-most on the team.

One of Anderson's four shutouts came in November against the Flyers, but they beat him three times in December.

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