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Flyers try to slow down playoff-bound Islanders

by Brian Hunter

ISLANDERS (24-16-6) at FLYERS (21-22-3)


Last 10: New York 7-0-3; Philadelphia 5-5-0

Season series: This will be the fourth and final game between the Atlantic Division rivals this season. The New York Islanders have won the two most recent meetings against the Philadelphia Flyers, including a 4-1 win April 9 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Big story: With a playoff spot locked up, the Islanders will be focused on claiming as many points as they can to keep climbing the Eastern Conference standings.

Team Scope:

Islanders: It wasn't exactly how they pictured it, but a loss on the ice became a win in the locker room for the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The point earned from their shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes was enough to clinch the Isles a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"I've never felt better to lose a game," forward Frans Nielsen said. "[Islanders general manager] Garth Snow has been patient with us, even missing the playoffs. He believed we had the core in here to take us to the postseason. He went out and found some good pieces this summer, like [defenseman Lubomir] Visnovsky and those kind of guys to build onto it, so we've got it now. It's fun."

The playoff clinching capped a 15-game 11-1-3 run that lifted the Islanders from 12th in the Eastern Conference to sixth. How it happened, however, remains a question.

"It's hard to pick what changed things for us, but we got our game going and got contributions from everybody and started to figure out what it's going to take to win," said John Tavares, who scored the game-tying goal with 1:01 left in the third period. "Sometimes it takes understanding success and learning how to handle it. In the second half, we finally got that under our belts. The patience was there. I think we all knew what a great opportunity we had here with this young group of guys, and we've all committed to be here. It's nice to have it come together this season."

Flyers: In the past, Philadelphia goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has talked about thriving with extra work. However, playing 22 straight games earlier this season was too much even for him.

That's why rather than feel threatened when the Flyers acquired goalie Steve Mason at the trade deadline, Bryzgalov was relieved. Since Mason arrived, Bryzgalov has played five of nine games, after playing 34 of the Flyers' first 36 games.

"I think it's great for the team when you have two good goalies on the team," Bryzgalov said after practice Wednesday. "During the season, I didn't have much opportunity for rest during the long stretch. I was kind of exhausted. You have the luxury of having a second goalie who can play great, too, it's wonderful for the team. You play another goalie and he can win the games, too."

Who's hot: Tavares has earned Hart Trophy consideration for his play in April, which includes six goals, four assists and a plus-6 rating in 11 games. … Since coming to Philadelphia, Mason has allowed just 11 goals in six games (five starts).

Injury report: The Islanders are a healthy team. … The Flyers are missing forwards Zac Rinaldo (ankle), Maxime Talbot (leg), and Jody Shelley (hip), and defensemen Braydon Coburn (shoulder), Andrej Meszaros (shoulder), Nicklas Grossmann (concussion), Kent Huskins (concussion), Bruno Gervais (torn stomach muscle) and Kimmo Timonen (foot).

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