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Flyers attempt to continue mastery of Islanders

by Adam Kimelman
ISLANDERS (26-31-8) at FLYERS (34-26-4)

Last 10: Islanders 3-7-0; Flyers 6-3-1

Season series:
This is the fifth of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Flyers have won all four, with three coming by identical 2-1 scores. In their most recent game, Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell scored in the first period en route to a 2-1 Flyers victor at the Wachovia Center on Jan. 30.

Big Story: Will John Tavares ever score again? The first pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, one of the most prolific goal scorers in junior-hockey history, hasn't found the net in his last 17 games.

Can the Flyers continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings? They're 6-1-1 in their last eight games and have pulled within five points of fifth-place Ottawa.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- After scoring 15 times in his first 31 games, Tavares has just 2 goals in his last 34. It's a new feeling for the player who set an Ontario Hockey League record with 215 goals in four seasons.

Josh Bailey understands exactly what Tavares is going through. Taken ninth by the Isles in the 2008 Draft, he had his own ups and downs as an NHL rookie last season.

"I know what John has been going through with the rigors of the NHL season and I have no doubt he's going to be an even better player because of it," Bailey told "Like I did, John is going to have the benefit of a complete offseason working with the coaches and the training staff to prepare like an NHL player. I can't tell you what a difference that made for me last spring and summer."

With 14 goals, Bailey already has doubled last season's total, and he has 29 points with 17 games left in the season, outpacing his 24 points from last season.

Flyers -- Philadelphia remains the most penalized team in the NHL, and Daniel Carcillo remains among the League's penalty minute leaders, but after leading the League with 254 PIM last season, he's on pace to knock more than 50 minutes off that number.

He's playing far smarter, which has led to him playing more -- up from 10:16 a game in his 20 games with the Flyers last season to 11:01 this season. He's also been used on the top line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.

Sunday against the Leafs was a perfect example of how Carcillo has grown. He drew a four-minute penalty on Colton Orr for not fighting back when Orr repeatedly shoved and cross-checked him in the first period. He later added an assist on Gagne's second-period goal.

"You ask those guys to play on the edge, a guy like Danny Carcillo, to agitate, irritate, and to be effective in that job," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's a fine line that he has to walk, and I think he's done an excellent job. He gives that Richards line a forechecking presence. You saw what he did today, he was able to draw penalties. I thought he had a terrific game for us tonight. He worked hard, he generated offense. It's a fine line he has to walk, but I think he's done an outstanding job. He's been excellent."

Who's Hot --
Islanders left wing Matt Moulson has a point in five straight games. … Gagne must have gotten some good rest during the Olympics, because he looks like a rejuvenated player. In the first four games after the break, Gagne had 4 goals and an assist.

Injury Report --
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro is on injured reserve with more knee issues. Defenseman Andy MacDonald will miss at least four weeks with a broken foot sustained Tuesday. Forward Trent Hunter also is expected to miss a week with an upper-body injury he suffered in the same game. And forward Blake Comeau is questionable for Tuesday's game due to facial lacerations suffered when Michael Ryder railed him into the boards Saturday.

Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis could be ready to come off injured reserve due to the groin injury he suffered in the Olympics, but with six healthy blueliners, he might not get right back in the lineup.

Stat Pack -- The Flyers have won 14 straight games against the Islanders, a stretch that dates back to Feb. 12, 2008. The Islanders haven't won in Philadelphia since April 7, 2007, a span of nine games.

Puck Drop --
Carcillo had some choice comments for Orr after Sunday's game, calling him a "minor leaguer."

"I'm just never going to fight him," Carcillo added. "I mean, he plays three minutes a night, he doesn't really do anything unless somebody fights him. I kind of knew he was going to run me there, and then I sucked him into a few (penalties)."

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