- Associated Press - Thursday, April 7, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Flyers lost their grip on the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The coach wants passion.

The general manager wants a wake-up call.

The team wants good health and strong play in the final two games of the season that will prove it is still the team to beat in the East.

Time is running out for the Flyers to show all of that.

Philadelphia hopes it hasn’t completely abandoned its winning formula before the first postseason faceoff next week. The Flyers could get a sneak preview Friday in Buffalo against a Sabres team that stands as their likely first-round opponent. The Flyers are second in the East, and have all but lost their shot at winning the conference.

Meanwhile, the late-season swoon allowed Washington to grab the top spot in the East. The Capitals have won four straight games and can drop out of first only if they lose in regulation to Florida on Saturday and if the Flyers win their final two games.

Win two? Well, for starters, the Flyers want just one.

Philadelphia fell hard down the stretch and is on a four-game losing streak. Even worse, the Flyers have lost six straight on their usually intimidating home ice.

“We’ve been waiting for eight months to get to the playoffs,” forward Scott Hartnell said. “Seven months out of those eight, we’ve been great. This last month, we’ve not been great. Maybe it’s a lull before we get jacked up again.”

The Flyers ended last season losers of eight of 12, but turned the corner in the playoffs and reached Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals before losing to Chicago.

The Flyers can still win the Atlantic Division and finish in second. Philadelphia trails Washington by four points in the standings (107-103), but leads Pittsburgh in the Atlantic by a point. If the Flyers win the division, they’ll automatically earn a top-three seed.

Both teams have two games left and Philadelphia has already clinched the first tiebreaker (non-shootout wins). But a No. 1 seed that seemed like an empty-net situation at the start of the month has twisted into a 3-on-5 disadvantage.

“It’s hard to sit here,” coach Peter Laviolette said, “and make excuses for it.”

Laviolette has help on the way, though. All-Star forward Danny Briere (63 points) could play Friday despite his lower-body injury. And defenseman Chris Pronger is day to day with a broken right hand. Pronger, perhaps Philadelphia’s most valuable defenseman, expects to return for the postseason.

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