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NBC Game of the Week: Flyers vs. Red Wings

Osgood.jpgPhiladelphia Flyers vs. Detroit Red Wings 12:30 p.m. EST - Sunday, April 4, 2010 Live on NBC

Detroit Red Wings - 41-23-14 (96 points) @ Philadelphia Flyers - 38-34-6 (82 points)

This week’s game of the week catches two teams headed in opposite directions as they approach the playoffs. There was a point in which both teams were worried about missing the playoffs, but now the Red Wings are focused on improving their seeding while the Flyers are holding on for dear life.

Hot finish after a slow start

Nearly a month ago we covered the Red Wings taking on the Chicago Blackhawks, and wondered whether this was a team preparing for one last push for a Stanley Cup before they had to take a few years to ‘reload’. Since then, Detroit has become one of the NHL’s hottest teams, winners of seven straight before Saturday’s OT loss to Nashville and eight of the their last ten games. In fact, they’ve taken a point from all 10 games, going 8-0-2.

At one point it was a question as to whether Detroit would even make the playoffs; silly us for doubting the NHL’s most stable franchise of the past two decades.

Stumbling into the playoffs

The Philadelphia Flyers, on the other hand, are threatening to fall completely out of the playoffs after going 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. They’ve lost Jeff Carter to injury and are on what seems to be their 15th goaltender of the season. It’s the culmination of the ultimate up-and-down season for the Flyers. Their inconsistency would normally be that of a team fighting for a lottery spot in this year’s draft, if it weren’t for the completely joke that is the bottom half of the Eastern Conference this season.

See, the Flyers’ late season collapse would normally be enough to drop out of the playoffs altogether. Yet no team in the East seems capable of stepping up when it matters most. We now have a quagmire of mediocrity among the conference’s bubble teams.

What about the goaltenders?

The story of the game, incredibly, could be surrounding the goaltenders each team decides to use. Mike Babcock decided to play rookie sensation Jimmy Howard on Saturday so veteran Chris Osgood is expected to play on Sunday against the Flyers. It would be Osgood’s first appearance since March 3rd and his first start since Jan. 27.

On the other side of the ice, no one has a clue who the Flyers will have in net. I doubt the Flyers know, but hopefully they’ve at least planned on it. Brian Boucher got the start on Friday night against the Canadiens, but was rocked on Thursday against the Islanders. Johan Backlund should return soon from his groin injury, but it’s unknown if he’ll be available Sunday. It’s anyone’s guess if the Flyers might turn to recently-signed Sebastien Caron or stick with the floundering Boucher.

Sunday on Pro Hockey Talk:

-The Red Wings continue to be successful, no matter who might be in net. -Do the Philadelphia Flyers have what it takes to hold on for the playoffs? -How different will the Flyers roster look next season? -Who are the favorites for the Hart and Calder Trophies? -Injury and goaltender updates for Detroit and Philadelphia -Live chat during the game with Brandon, James and Joe!