At this point in the season, there's an up-tick in the usage of the phrase "If the season ended today..." Instead of listing how many games teams have played, newspapers change the column in the standings table to show the games remaining. And the table overall switches from showing the divisions to the entire conference.
Tonight's contest begins a challenging stretch of three road games in four days that continues Saturday against division-leading Tampa Bay and Sunday against the team they're currently just a point above in the standings, the Atlanta Thrashers.
If the Canes are the team that has secured three of a possible four points in two hard-fought contests this week, they could threaten the New York Rangers for the seventh spot in the conference. If they're the team that has let a third-period lead disappear in those games, they could find themselves below the playoff line again.
Carolina will be without top defender Joni Pitkanen for at least the Flyers contest. Listed as day-to-day after he took a slapshot off the inside of his knee against the Devils on Tuesday, Pitkanen will be replaced by Brett Carson, who was called up from the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday. Carson's skated seven games for the Canes this year, and is Charlotte's leading plus-minus player.
Zach Boychuk, however, will be in the lineup. Boychuk took a brutal elbow to the head from Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov and missed some shifts Tuesday, but returned to that game. Volchenkov has been suspended three games for the dirty hit.
Jussi Jokinen remains out of the lineup and is targeting next week for a return.