New York Islanders (24-16-6, 14-5-3 road) at Philadelphia Flyers (21-22-3, 14-7-2 home)
7pm, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Middletown, N . J.- After clinching an Eastern Conference playoff berth the other night in Carolina, there still remains much work for the New York Islanders to complete. As the truncated regular season comes to its conclusion on Saturday just where will this team end up when the playoff match-ups are announced?
The answer to that question honestly ranges anywhere from 5th (less likely) to 8th (not impossible). With the Toronto Maple Leafs surprising loss in Tampa Bay last night, the Isles stay in contention for the elusive 5th spot, but still need help from the last place Florida Panthers. The magic number for Toronto to lock in remains at 3 entering tonight’s action.
As for the Islanders it certainly has been a whirlwind seven week ride from 8-11-2 all the way to their current 24-16-6 and a playoff spot. 5 regulation losses in 25 games has certainly EARNED the Isles the right to play for the championship however they cannot afford to let their thoughts get ahead of them and overlook their last regular season opponents.
The Liberty Bell
The Flyers are still a dangerous offensive team, regardless of their position in the standings. Claude Giroux (13-34-47) commands attention each time he touches the puck and Jacob Voracek (21-24-45) is rejuvenated playing on his wing. Wayne Simmonds has earned the love of the Flyers faithful with his energetic physical play and has chipped in with 15 goals on the season. Daniel Briere is back from his concussion but playing limited minutes now (only 13:46 last game).
To prove that the Flyers have not exactly mailed anything in this late in the season is to look at who they have beaten during their current streak of 4 wins in 5 games. They defeated the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins by a combined 21-10. Just to give your mind more to play with, add in the 3rd best power play and 5th best penalty killing in the entire league and you can easily see, had it not been for devastating injuries to their blue line, where this team could have ended up in the standings. Are they a team the Isles should beat? Well, if they have any serious aspirations of success in the playoffs, absolutely. But to think it will be an easy march on the way to two points in the bank is very far from a logical assumption. After some confusion at the morning skate, Sam Carchidi confirmed on Twitter that Ilya Bryzgalov will be in-goal.
Alone On An Island? Hardly.
For the Islanders, their biggest need in this game outside of coming out of it with two more points is to stay healthy and get back to the stifling defensive play that got them to this point. After allowing only 14 goals in their previous 9 games, the team allowed 7 over their last two to the Jets and Hurricanes. And it was not pretty. Breakdowns, turnovers and slow backchecking all contributed along with a couple of deflections. One has to wonder, however, if the Tuomo Ruutu epic miss of a wide open net which allowed the Isles to gain their clinching point, is just another example of the positive karma surrounding this club.
John Tavares enters the night in strong contention for the Hart Trophy, handed out annually to the most valuable player to his team. There is no question that the Isles would be nowhere near a playoff berth had JT not put the team on his back earlier in the season when the secondary scoring was struggling to find their wings. The perennial all-star is third in the league in goals scored with 27 and the team is 4-10-3 when he does not record a point. Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo each come in with 4 game point streaks and Matt Martin plays in his 200th NHL game tonight. Since the 7-0 drubbing that the Isles took at home on February 18, they have won two straight over Philadelphia, 4-3 and 4-1.
This morning, EyesOnIsles posted in their facebook group about who the fans would want to start tonight’s game. The results came out to almost a 50/50 split between Kevin Poulin and Evgeni Nabokov. Turns out Poulin will indeed get the nod this evening with Nabby returning between the pipes tomorrow night at Buffalo. Other lineup changes include Matt Carkner in for Thomas Hickey and Eric Boulton for Jesse Joensuu.
- Final Islanders viewing party of the season is tonight at 7pm. Find the information right here.
- With Carkner and Boulton in the lineup, you definitely want to give this a read.
- Coolest thing since sliced bread..with our return to the post-season comes memorabilia!……
— THE TRISTATE CO-OP (@tristateco) April 24, 2013
Stay tuned immediately after the game for our new feature, dump and chase, where we bullet point key moments in the game leading into the full post-game recap.
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