The Philadelphia Flyers' postseason fate probably won't be decided until a home-and-home series this weekend.
Before turning their attention to those critical games, the Flyers get a chance to pad their record Tuesday night when they visit the Eastern Conference-worst Toronto Maple Leafs.
With three games remaining on its schedule, Philadelphia (39-34-6) occupies eighth place in the East -- one point behind Boston and two ahead the ninth-place New York Rangers, who have a game in hand. Barring a collapse by New York, the race for the final playoff spot will be decided when the Flyers and Rangers meet Friday at Madison Square Garden and in Sunday's season finale at the Wachovia Center.
"We all know what's at stake now," Philadelphia left wing Daniel Carcillo said. "We need to win out to get in."
If the Flyers can continue to play the way they did in Sunday's 4-3 win over Detroit, making the playoffs for a third straight season shouldn't be a problem.
Carcillo, Claude Giroux, Arron Asham and Kimmo Timonen all scored for Philadelphia, which has at least four goals in three of the last four games after failing to reach that mark in each of the previous 13.
"We were skating, hitting, playing physical," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "When we play like that, we can be successful."
The Flyers, who have only two victories in their last nine contests, will now try to win consecutive games for the first time since defeating Toronto 3-1 on March 7 and beating the New York Islanders 3-2 two days later.
The home team has won all three meetings in this season series, two of which were in Philadelphia. The Flyers have lost four straight visits to Toronto, including a 4-1 defeat Jan. 14.
Although the Leafs (29-36-14) have the East's worst record, they've been playing much better lately. They're 9-3-2 since March 9, and might even be in the playoff picture if they'd fared better in overtime games.
Toronto fell 2-1 in overtime against the Bruins on Saturday -- its 14th defeat in 22 games that have gone beyond regulation.
"That's an indication of how close we are to becoming a more competitive team," coach Ron Wilson said. "I guess we've lost 14. We win half of those, and tonight's game would have had an entirely different meaning. If we had seven more goals in those games.
"We're a lot closer than it would appear."
The Leafs might have to play this game without leading scorer Phil Kessel (30 goals, 55 points), who missed Monday's practice with what Wilson said was either a muscle cramp or muscle pull. Toronto is 8-22-11 when he either doesn't play at all or goes without a point.
Kessel's absence would likely make life easier for Philadelphia's Brian Boucher, who made 31 saves against the Red Wings.
One of five goalies to play for the Flyers this season, Boucher has appeared in each of the last 11 games, going 3-5-2 with a 2.93 goals-against average in that stretch. He is 3-2-0 with a tie and a 1.94 GAA in his career against the Leafs, but hasn't faced them since Oct. 17, 2002.