The Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens each have been picking up points of late, but only one team is headed to the postseason.
Philadelphia can make it official with a victory Saturday night.
The Flyers can clinch a playoff berth by earning their sixth win in the last seven meetings against the visiting Canadiens, who are still fighting despite sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia (43-28-8) is in fifth place in the East, four points up on sixth-place New Jersey and four back of fourth-place Pittsburgh. It improved to 9-2-1 in March with a 2-1 shootout victory over Washington on Thursday.
Claude Giroux scored his 27th goal, and Ilya Bryzgalov recovered from allowing a goal on the game's first shift to make 30 saves.
Bryzgalov improved to 9-1-1 with a 1.24 goals-against average this month after stopping the final three shootout attempts, and coach Peter Laviolette said he's a major reason for the Flyers' recent success.
''Bryz has done a tremendous job for us, and shootouts have been a part of that,'' Laviolette said. ''There's a tremendous amount of confidence right now in our goaltender. In the shootout tonight, that showed.''
Bryzgalov, though, also has been a reason the Flyers have allowed the first goal in 15 of their last 20 contests, and he may have to be stronger at the start to improve on a lifetime 0-3-1 record and 3.75 GAA versus Montreal.
Erik Cole had a natural hat trick in the first 5:41 of the Canadiens' 5-1 win over Ottawa on Friday, tying his career high of 30 goals set in 2006-07 while with Carolina.
Cole, in his first season with Montreal (29-33-13), set the record for the franchise's fastest hat trick. Though Cole was pleased with his effort, he said it doesn't do much to help in an overall disappointing season for his team.
The Canadiens, despite earning a point in seven of their last eight games while going 4-1-3, are tied with the New York Islanders for the fewest points in the East.
"Yeah, I was excited for the third goal, but one night doesn't change too much in the standings for us," Cole said. "Just have to shower up, get on a plane, get some rest and go play again tomorrow."
P.K. Subban had two assists and 10 penalty minutes in a chippy contest, and he said despite the Canadiens being out of the playoff race, they're not going to back down over their final seven games.
"It's the end of the season and teams are getting ready for the playoffs, and if you're not in the playoffs guys are fighting for jobs," Subban said. "Everybody's got something to prove, and you enjoy playing in those games."
Carey Price made 37 saves to improve to 3-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA in his last five. However, he's 1-5-0 with a 3.38 GAA in his last six starts versus the Flyers, and it's unclear if he'll get the nod in this matchup.
Giroux missed Philadelphia's 4-3 win over Montreal in the most recent meeting Dec. 15, but he has five goals in his last five games against the Canadiens.
He scored twice in a 3-1 victory Nov. 25, marking the Flyers' third straight home win in the series.
- Montreal Canadiens
- The Flyers
- Ilya Bryzgalov