ISLANDERS (30-38-13) at FLYERS (46-23-11)
TV -- MSG PLUS (HD), CSN-PH (HD)
Last 10 --
New York 3-5-2; Philadelphia 3-4-3
Season series --
The Flyers will go for the season sweep against their Atlantic Division rivals in this one. In their most recent meeting, James van Riemsdyk
had his first NHL hat trick and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky
stopped 36 of 37 shots in a 4-1 win at Nassau Coliseum on March 26.
Big story --
The Flyers saw their winless skid hit five games with a 4-3 overtime loss in Buffalo. The loss allowed Washington to clinch the top seed in the East.
It's been a long time since Doug Weight could be considered a rookie, but now that he's shed his uniform for a suit and gone from sitting on the bench to standing behind it, Weight has become a rookie again -- this time as a coach.
When the club determined Weight would not be able to return this season from a back injury that has sidelined him since mid-November, the team captain found another way to help his teammates -- by joining coach Jack Capuano's staff.
In just four games, his presence already is being felt by the Isles' younger players.
"For younger guys like me, it's a big thing to see how he behaved and handled himself (as a player), even though he's not playing anymore," forward Jesse Joensuu
told the team's website. "With him being on the bench, it's really something."
Weight, 40, hasn't announced his retirement; rather, he's using his down time to see if coaching is something he would enjoy.
"I think coaching is a real art with guys at this level, who are as successful as they are and trying to pass along a message without being a turn off," Weight told the team's website. "So it's tough. That's a challenge for those guys (Capuano and assistants Scott Allen and Dean Chynoweth). Whether or not that's something I want to pursue, I don't really know at this point."
On March 29, Philadelphia won 5-2 in Pittsburgh to move four points up in the Atlantic Division with just six games left in the regular season. Five games without a victory later, the Flyers will go into their season finale in need of a win Saturday, or some help from the Atlanta Thrashers when they play the Penguins on Sunday.
If the Flyers win Saturday, they'll clinch the Atlantic Division and the second seed in the conference, regardless of what happens Sunday. However, any kind of a loss leaves them vulnerable to slipping all the way to fourth and a first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who the Flyers lost to three times in four games.
The Flyers can take some solace, however, in their opponent Saturday being the Isles -- the Flyers have won 20 of their last 21 against the Islanders, including 12 straight at home.
Who's hot --
Islanders rookie forward Michael Grabner
has 2 goals and 1 assist in his last three games. … Flyers forward Danny Briere
had a goal and an assist Friday against Buffalo. The goal was his 33rd, a new single-season high for the 13-year veteran.
Injury report --
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
(hand) is out until the playoffs. Center Blair Betts
is day-to-day with a lower-body injury while forward Jody Shelley
has been cleared to play after recovering from a broken orbital bone, but has yet to return to the lineup since he was hurt March 22. … The latest additions to the Islanders' injury list are defenseman Jack Hillen (shoulder) and Bruno Gervais (lower body), both of whom are questionable for Saturday's game.
Stat pack --
Grabner leads all rookies this season with 33 goals. That's the most in a season by any first-year player since Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin had 33 in 2006-07. The last players to score more were Washington's Alex Ovechkin (52) and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby (39) in 2005-06.
Puck drop --
Despite not playing a game this season, Ian Laperriere
was the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association's nomination for the Masterton Trophy. The award is given annually to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
Laperriere likely won't play again due to concussion issues, and has spent portions of the season working with Flyers' prospects.
"(The Flyers) are taking care of me, and not that many teams would take care of their players like they are doing with me," Laperriere said on a conference call. "They have been giving me all the tools to keep me busy and they know how much I love the game. It's been hard watching, it's been hard not to be a part of something like I've been used to since I'm 5 years old, but that's something I have to deal with."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told the Courier-Post he believes the team misses the things Laperriere brought on and off the ice.
"His character, his leadership, his enthusiasm for life and for the game, his work habits, his beliefs -- everything you want your team to exemplify, he exemplifies," Laviolette said. "We miss a guy like him, we really do."