Philadelphia has historically been a team the Islanders have had a tough time defeating, whether on home ice or away. But Thursday night, the Islanders are looking to change those ways and earn two points in regulation at Wells Fargo Center.
“I think the most important thing for us is that we’re going to have to play extremely desperate,” Islanders forward Matt Martin
said. “I mean, Toronto was a game we really needed to win to keep our playoff hopes alive. Now this Philly game is that much more important. If we drop this one, it’s going to be a real hard run to make it to the playoffs. So it’s a must win game.”
Even though the Islanders lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, they know they can counteract that loss with a win. They’ve been bouncing back from tough losses all season with wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames – among other teams that are on top of conference or division standings.
|Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders skates during an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers at the Nassau Coliseum on February 21, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) |
Thus, the feat is not out of reach. The Flyers may be holding on to the first seed in the Eastern Conference (with 84 points), but that’s just one thing the Islanders can use to their advantage.
“The Flyers are one of the best teams right now,” Martin said. “It will be a great test to see really where we stand in our conference and just building through the rest of the season here and even into next season, to kind of see where we stand and how we match up against some of the best teams.”
But even with a completely healthy team, the Islanders have struggled against the Flyers. And unfortunately, Radek Martinek was injured in Monday afternoon’s contest with the Florida Panthers and then Milan Jurcina
was injured after just three shifts Tuesday night in Toronto. That means the Isles will probably be without two of their top defensemen in Thursday night’s matchup.
“It’s tough, but there is a saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’,” Martin said. “We’ve battled through a lot of injuries this year. I mean, we have the most man games lost in the league this year and it’s tough having a different lineup every night. And a guy like Marty, he’s one of the oldest players on our team, and we’ve obviously lost a lot of our veterans this season. It brought a lot of us young guys closer together and some of the younger guys have got to take on some bigger roles and have been able to carry the team through the stretch here.”
While the Isles will have to depend on a young defensive core, including Andrew MacDonald
, Travis Hamonic
, Jack Hillen, Ty Wishart
and Bruno Gervais, the forwards are going to need to step up their game. Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said he plans to go over some video and correct some mistakes before Thursday night’s game especially turnovers and the power play.
“Any time that we have the injuries on the back end that we have, we need a little more from our forwards, making sure that we limit our turnovers and make sure that the opposition has to come 200 feet,” Capuano said. “That’s the way we want to play number one, but number two, it relieves a little pressure off your defense.”
In Tuesday night’s contest, the Islanders scored their only goal with the man advantage and even though they had six opportunities, they only converted on one. If they had been able to convert on multiple opportunities, the outcome could have been different.
|Darryl Boyce #47 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to shoot the puck as Ty Wishart #6 of the New York Islanders defends during game action February 22, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images) |
The Flyers will try to take full advantage of the Isles diminished defense, but Martin said he knows they can match their intensity.
“I think we just need to play really smart hockey,” Martin said. “They’re a really good defensive team. You can’t have too many offensive turnovers. We have to get pucks deep, bang their defensemen and be physical, play quick and get pucks to the net. Their goalies are playing really well right now but I think any given day, a goalie can have a bad game. We have to get after the goalies quick, throw pucks at them and get on them in a hurry. We have to do whatever we can to get him off his game.”
Capuano noted defeating the high powered offense will be the Islanders toughest challenge. He said that the team has a lot of depth and if the Isles concentrate on just Jeff Carter or Danny Briere, they’ll get themselves into trouble because “they’ve got creative depth”.
“The thing with Philadelphia, to beat them, you’re going to have to have a full team effort and you’re going to have to win the goaltending and special teams battle,” Capuano said. “We’re going to have to play very disciplined.”
While Montoya has surely been playing well and has been making a case to get the starts, Capuano said he has not decided who will start on Thursday. He said, “Al (Montoya) has played the last couple games, so I haven’t decided (who will start Thursday night). It could be time to give Nathan (Lawson) a chance tomorrow. It’s something we’ll talk about tonight. But that hasn’t been set in stone.”