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Flyers open pivotal home-and-home against Islanders

by Adam Kimelman

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers are one of seven teams separated by eight points in the Metropolitan Division, but just two of them will claim the division's automatic spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a home-and-home set against the New York Islanders starting Saturday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the Flyers have a chance to do some serious damage to the competition.

The Flyers enter the game second in the division while the Islanders are eight points back in eighth.

"Playing a division rival, you want to be able to take the two points," Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said after the team's morning skate at its suburban New Jersey practice site, Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone. "We've got a back-to-back here. The more separation we can create the better."

The Flyers' next four games are against division opponents; after their game Monday at Nassau Coliseum, they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday and then play at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

"I don't know if it places more emphasis on it," Flyers coach Craig Berube said, "but we talk about these next four games, all division opponents ... critical points.

"When they realigned these divisions and put them the way they did, it makes these games really important."

The Islanders have a similar schedule to the Flyers, with four Metropolitan Division games in a row; after their pair with Philadelphia they play at the New York Rangers on Tuesday and are home for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. The Islanders are 3-10-3 against division opponents. The only team with a worse record against its own division is the Edmonton Oilers, who are 2-9-3 against the rest of the Pacific Division.

Also working against the Islanders, as far as their games against Philadelphia go, is history. The Flyers' two wins against the Islanders this season pushed their record to 14-2-2 in the teams' past 18 games, dating to the start of the 2010-11 season. In Philadelphia, the Flyers are 16-1-2 against the Islanders since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano announced two changes to his lineup at the team's morning skate at Class of 1923 Rink on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Forward Eric Boulton will return to the lineup and skate on the fourth line, with forward Peter Regin a healthy scratch. In addition, defenseman Matt Carkner will play in place of Radek Martinek.

Kevin Poulin will start in goal; he is 6-1-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in his past seven games.

Here are the projected lineups for the Islanders and Flyers:


Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck

Michael Grabner - Brock Nelson - Colin McDonald

Eric Boulton - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin

Andrew MacDonald - Brian Strait

Matt Donovan - Calvin de Haan

Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner

Kevin Poulin

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Peter Regin, Radek Martinek

Injured: Evgeni Nabokov (lower body), Travis Hamonic (upper body), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion)


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Scott Hartnell - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Vincent Lecavalier

Steve Downie - Chris VandeVelde - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann

Luke Schenn - Andrej Meszaros

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Jay Rosehill, Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson

Injured: Zac Rinaldo (ankle)


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