NHL Playoffs 2012: Flyers, Penguins Battle For Home Ice Gets Tighter

It seemed as though the Philadelphia Flyers' hopes for home-ice advantage in the first round were quickly fading away. Five days ago, the No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins were just two points ahead of the No. 5 Flyers, but with a game in hand and two games coming up against the New York Islanders, it seemed as though the gap was about to grow.

The Penguins would be pushing for the No. 1 seed, not falling to the No. 5 seed.

But two surprising losses against the Islanders later and the Penguins' hold on the No. 4 seed doesn't look so strong. Following Thursday's games -- in which the Flyers crushed the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-1 and the Pens fell to the Isles 5-3 -- Philadelphia sits just two points back of Pittsburgh still. The only difference now is that the two teams have played the same number of games, and the Flyers hold a potential tiebreaker.

Despite still trailing in the race, the Flyers do hold their own destiny for home-ice advantage, thanks to playing two of their final three games against the Penguins. Of course, those games are in Pittsburgh, and it also means the Pens control their own fate as well, but Philadelphia has never lost in four total games at the new Consol Energy Center.

This is exactly what the NHL's schedule makers were hoping for when they released the schedule last June. Two bitter rivals playing two games in the final week of the season which could very well decide an important aspect of the playoff race. Doesn't get much better than that.

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