Key divisional matchup pits Flyers against Islanders
Sunday, 12.27.2009 / 5:00 PMFLYERS (17-18-2) at ISLANDERS (15-17-7)
Last 10 --
Philadelphia 4-5-1; New York 4-6-0
Season series --
This is the third meeting this season between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Flyers won, 2-1, on the Island on Thanksgiving Eve when Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell
scored and Brian Boucher made 28 saves. The Flyers won, 6-2, in Philadelphia on Dec. 8 when Richards, Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux
each scored twice and Boucher made 21 saves.
Big story --
The Islanders and Flyers rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Atlantic Division standings, with the Islanders a point ahead of the Flyers and three points behind the eighth-place Atlanta Thrashers in the Eastern Conference. Neither team is out of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture but they both need a better second half, and a division game is a place to gain ground.
Both teams have significant injury problems. The Islanders' No. 1 goalie, Rick DiPietro
, hasn't played this season after September knee surgery. Philadelphia's Ray Emery had abdominal surgery earlier this month. Both teams have had a first-line player miss most of the season. New York captain Doug Weight has played only 11 games and is due back soon. Flyers' left wing Simon Gagne has played four games since missing 24 after hernia surgeries. Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek is out for the season after a knee injury and Flyers defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has missed most of the season with a concussion and knee injury.
The Flyers beat Tampa Bay, 5-2, on Wednesday and Carolina, 4-3 in a shootout, Saturday night. They play the Rangers Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. While they insist they are not looking ahead, they'd love nothing better than to take a four-game winning streak into Friday's 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Boston's Fenway Park. The Flyers had only five defensemen available Saturday. Look for a call-up from Adirondack on Sunday, possibly Danny Syvret.
No. 1 draft pick John Tavares
was off to a great start but he's gone cold in December with only one goal since Dec. 9 -- and that was his first even-strength goal since Dec. 3. As a result, the Islanders have been in a scoring drought, scoring more than two goals in regulation only once this month and winning two 3-2 overtime games, including Saturday's victory over the Rangers.
Who's hot --
Richards has three goals and six points in the past six games, plus a shootout goal for the Flyers on Saturday. Danny Briere
also had a goal and a shootout score Saturday. … Islanders winger Kyle Okposo
has a goal and three assists in the past three games. Center Frans Nielsen
has two goals and five points in the past five games.
Injury report --
Weight has missed 23 games since suffering a shoulder injury on Nov. 6. Left wing Sean Bergenheim has missed eight games with a rib injury and is out indefinitely. Martinek suffered a season-ending knee injury in early November. DiPietro underwent September knee surgery and has had several setbacks in his recovery. Knee problems caused him to miss the last 41 games last season after he played only five games in 2008-09.
Emery underwent abdominal surgery on Dec. 8 and is due back in late January. Defenseman Ryan Parent was scratched after the warmup Saturday night and no explanation was given. Center Jared Ross suffered a head injury Nov. 27 and has missed 14 games. Tollefson missed 16 games with a concussion, returned Dec. 14 and suffered a knee injury. He's due back in early January. Boucher suffered a cut finger last week, missed the Tampa Bay game, but was on the bench Saturday night. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after the game he hadn't decided on Sunday's goalie.
Stat pack --
The Flyers rank ninth with 21.2 percent power-play efficiency while the Islanders rank 29th in killing only 75.5 percent of their short-handed situations. The Islanders rank 27th with 15.8 percent power-play success while the Flyers rank 25th with only 78 percent success on the penalty kill.
Puck drop --
Undisciplined play got John Stevens fired as Flyers coach earlier this month. The Flyers lead the NHL by averaging 17.8 penalty minutes per game. They just got their first two-game winning streak in 12 games for Laviolette and they took only 10 minutes in penalties in each of those games.