Let the race begin.
After a nine-day layoff thanks to the All-Star break and their NHL-mandated bye week, the Flyers (27-17-6) return to action Friday when they visit the Penguins (31-14-5).
With 32 games remaining, the Flyers are three points out of third place in the competitive Metropolitan Division and one point out of an Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Let's get into the essentials:
• When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. ET
• Where: PPG Paints Arena
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
• Following Thursday's practice, head coach Alain Vigneault exuded confidence about his team's push for the playoffs.
After all, there's no reason he shouldn't be confident. This is Vigneault's fourth NHL head coaching gig. His overall record in Year 1 at his four stops is 158-106-32 with a .588 points percentage. With the Canadiens, Canucks and Rangers, each of Vigneault's first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win.
He has plans to make it 4 for 4 with the Flyers.
“I expected to be in and I’ve said all along, and I’m still saying it today, that we’re going to get into the playoffs," Vigneault said. "I believe that we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the veteran group, we’ve got good young players. We’re going to get in.
"We’re exactly where I’d thought we would be. If you try to break down the season, number of points, what you’ve got to get per 10-game segments, we’re right on track. It might take a few more points than I originally thought, and that’s how competitive the Eastern Conference is, but it’s great for everybody.
"As a player, as a coach, that’s why you’re in this business — this competitiveness and that’s what we’ve got.”
• The Flyers should expect the Penguins to come out with purpose. Pittsburgh was not happy with its final game before the extended break, a 3-0 loss to the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
"It was a lack of executing, lack of attention to detail, no sense of urgency, no cooperative play," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said after the Jan. 21 defeat. "Can’t play that way in this league and expect to win.
"We were easy to play against, that’s what I think. We didn’t chip bodies, finish checks. We didn’t make great decisions with the puck. We didn’t execute when we had it. There’s nothing positive that I can draw on from this game."
Pittsburgh hasn't lost consecutive games since Nov. 29-30, a stretch in which it has gone 17-5-1.
• Sean Couturier has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last six regular-season games against the Penguins.
Over his last 40 games this season, Couturier has put up 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) and a plus-22 mark (see story).
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton-Kevin Hayes-Joel Farabee
Tyler Pitlick-Connor Bunnaman-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Justin Braun
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