PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers don’t have to dig deep into their memory banks to remember the last time they faced the Washington Capitals.
After all, they were blitzed 5-0 in Washington on Jan. 15 and were forced to spend a bye week stewing about it.
The two teams who faced each other in the first round of last year’s playoffs will butt heads again on Wednesday night. The Capitals (39-12-7, 85 points) have lost two straight but are atop the Metropolitan Division while the Flyers (28-24-7, 63 points) are coming off a 1-2-0 road trip and are trying to decide if they should be buyers or sellers prior to the March 1 trade deadline.
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“Last year, nobody would have guessed we’d make the playoffs, and we did,” Flyers right winger Jake Voracek told PhillyNews.com. “We are in a better spot this year than last year, points-wise and standings-wise. We just have to keep it going.”
A year ago, the Flyers climbed over five teams to nail down the final wild-card playoff berth, where they were eliminated by the Capitals in six games. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth replaced Steve Mason three games into that series and won two contests practically by himself.
Neuvirth (10-7-1, 2.78 GAA, .890 save percentage) is expected to make his fifth straight start for the Flyers since taking over for Mason, who was pulled in that Jan. 15 rout against the Capitals and has not been the same since.
In fact, few Flyers have been very reliable since they went on a 10-game win streak in November and December. Since then, Philadelphia is 9-14-4 and has seen several key players fall into scoring slumps.
Captain Claude Giroux has just one goal and one assist in his last 10 games and is a minus-8 during that stretch. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere snapped a long dry spell with three points in Sunday night’s 3-2 win in Vancouver. He went into that game with just three points in his previous 14 games.
With 23 games remaining, four different Flyers have a plus-minus rating of minus-20 or worse — Gostisbehere (minus-22), Giroux (minus-20), Brayden Schenn (minus-20) and Wayne Simmonds (minus-20).
While the Flyers are coming off a weekend win over the Canucks, the Capitals suffered their first back-to-back losses since Dec. 27-29.
Washington went into its bye week on a six-game win streak, but lost consecutive one-goal games in Detroit and New York.
Still, the Capitals have a league-best goal differential of plus-69, far ahead of the Flyers, who have been outscored by 25 this season.
Washington winger Brett Connolly said he’s not sure the Capitals need anything at the trade deadline.
“We don’t need a top-six forward, that’s for sure,” he said. “We definitely don’t need a new goalie. I don’t think we really need anything.”
Braden Holtby (29-8-5, 2.01, .926), who was given the day off on Sunday, is expected to be back between the pipes for the Capitals.
Alex Ovechkin, who netted his 27th goal of the season in Sunday’s loss, has 31 goals and 18 assists in 43 regular-season games against the Flyers. In his last 19 games, he has nine goals, 13 assists and a plus-4 rating.