Flyers-Hurricanes Preview

The Philadelphia Flyers looked likely to miss out on the postseason for a second time in three seasons a little more than a month ago.

They’ve since put themselves back into contention, and better results in close games are a big reason why.

Philadelphia looks to continue its improved play Tuesday night when it visits the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Flyers (26-23-11) were 13 points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 16, but a 9-2-4 run has brought them within four of Boston, which currently holds the Eastern Conference’s second wild card.

They’re 7-0-4 in one-goal games in that span, including shootouts, after going 7-8-7 previously. They defeated Washington 3-2 on Sunday with Michael Del Zotto scoring the winner in the third period.

"In my mind I was almost writing them off too. But seriously, these guys just never ever stop believing in themselves," owner Ed Snider told the team’s official website. " … We’re just playing a tough brand of hockey. It’s hard to play against us."

Wayne Simmonds has mirrored Philadelphia’s surge, tallying eight goals and six assists over his last 12 games while recording a point in a career-best eight straight. He’ll try to end a three-game point drought in Carolina after recording eight points in his first four visits.

The Hurricanes (21-30-7) are 11-14-7 in one-goal games, including a 2-1 home win over Philadelphia on Jan. 2. They’ve won five of six in the series and three straight at home all by 2-1 scores. The team hasn’t won four straight home meetings since Nov. 25, 1989-April 12, 1992, when the franchise was still in Hartford.

Carolina has dropped four of six, falling 3-1 at New Jersey on Saturday despite limiting the Devils to 19 shots. The Hurricanes surrendered three first-period goals and have a minus-five goal first-period differential over their last six games. On the season, they’re in the league’s bottom third with a minus-10 differential after 20 minutes.

"It looks like some young guys have either hit a wall mentally or physically. We’ll have to try and figure out what it is," coach Bill Peters told the team’s official website. "If it’s physical, we’ll have to make sure they rest, and if it’s mental, we’ll have to help them through it."

Jeff Skinner, who scored a fourth goal in six games, has five goals and five assists in his last nine meetings with the Flyers.

Philadelphia is expected to give rookie goaltender Rob Zepp a fifth straight start with Steve Mason still sidelined by a knee injury. Veteran Ray Emery is also day to day with a lower-body injury, general manager Ron Hextall said, and didn’t travel to Carolina. Zepp is 5-1-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average in eight games.

The Flyers have scored 11 power-play goals on 38 chances in their last 15 games and are 8 for 26 over their last 10 on the road. Carolina’s league-best penalty kill remains strong, allowing three goals on 62 opportunities over the last 26 games (95.2 percent). Its 87.8 penalty-kill percentage would be a franchise record.

Philadelphia won the season’s first meeting 5-1 at home on Dec. 13, with Simmonds notching a goal and an assist.