ISLANDERS (46-27-6) at FLYERS (32-29-18)
TV: SNE, SNO, SNP, MSG+ 2, CSN-PH
PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Islanders will use injuries as opportunities Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, MSG+ 2, CSN-PH).
The Islanders can clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one point Tuesday against the Flyers, or if the Ottawa Senators lose in any fashion against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But they'll have to do it shorthanded, as center Frans Nielsen and left wing Matt Martin won't play because of undisclosed injuries.
Right wing Michael Grabner, a healthy scratch the past eight games, will return to the lineup, as will right wing Colin McDonald, who has been scratched the past 12 games.
"I think I've said this over the last three or four weeks, we have some injuries like every other team," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said after an optional morning skate. "But this gives an opportunity. Michael Grabner will be back in there tonight, Colin McDonald will be back in there tonight. Guys are going to get an opportunity to step up and play some minutes."
Potentially getting a different kind of opportunity is Ryan Strome. The fifth pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, Strome has split the season between center, his natural position, and right wing. But Nielsen's absence opens a hole in the middle that Strome could slide into.
"When you're in the middle you control the puck," Capuano said. "I think when you look at the centermen throughout the League, it all starts in the defensive zone; they come under the puck and they get the puck on their stick. Those guys want the puck and they can make plays. You have the puck a little more as a centerman. The skill guys usually like that. For me Ryan has done a good job along the wall. It's tough to play wing in this League. Every defense comes crashing down, you have to be strong; you have to win your wall battles. I see his technique getting better and better, and his attention to detail."
Strome, who is second on the Islanders with 49 points and tied for fourth with 17 goals, said the adjustment to playing on the wing mostly has been a smooth one.
"It's just a matter of understanding the position a little more," he said. "Different responsibilities. Different to get the puck too. As a centerman you have a lot more freedom. I think I've handled it pretty well. Obviously there are going to be bumps along the way. But all in all I'm a skilled guy, I want to make good plays. Doesn't matter where you are on the ice to do that."
However, Strome said he won't lobby for a move back to the middle.
"Just wherever [Capuano] puts me," Strome said. "I've only played a handful of games at center. It's a little different when you go back and forth. At the same time I think you're just getting involved in the game either way."
The Flyers will try to involve themselves in a game in a different way. Their playoff hopes are over, but they're 3-0-3 in their past six games, including two wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, putting a crimp in their quest for a spot in the playoffs. Now they have a chance to spoil the fun for another team.
"[Pittsburgh] came in the other night, the game meant a lot of to them," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "The game tonight means a lot of the Islanders. We know that. It's going to be a competitive hockey game. ... These guys, they want to try to knock [the Islanders] out or do what they can to hinder them. We're playing for pride."
Philadelphia also has the motivation of avoiding becoming the first Flyers team to be swept in a season series by the Islanders.
"I don't think we think about a sweep," Flyers goalie Steve Mason said. "We want to come out and have a good effort and get a win. Regardless of the position we're in winning is still fun and that's one of our goals. It's just trying to get another win."
Here are the projected lineups:
Nikolay Kulemin - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Anders Lee - Josh Bailey - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Brock Nelson - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Boulton - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Brian Strait - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky
Scratched: Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan, Cal Clutterbuck
Injured: Frans Nielsen (undisclosed), Matt Martin (undisclosed), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion)
Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Brayden Schenn
Zac Rinaldo - Nick Cousins - Ryan White
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier
Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit
Michael Del Zotto - Nick Schultz
Carlo Colaiacovo - Brandon Manning
Injured: Wayne Simmonds (lower body), Andrew MacDonald (upper body), Luke Schenn (lower body), Radko Gudas (knee), R.J. Umberger (hip/abdomen)
Status report: Grabovski skated after practice. ... Nielsen and Martin did not make the trip to Philadelphia and Capuano did not comment when asked how long they could be out. ... Brayden Schenn said he was OK after being hit above the left foot by a Streit shot during a power-play drill. "I'm fine," he said. "Was my fault. [Streit] shot it and I wasn't paying attention. I'm OK. It's happened before." Despite struggling to get up he never left the ice and said he would play Tuesday.
Who's hot: Tavares has eight points in his past seven games while Voracek has 10 points in his past seven games. Tavares, with 80 points is tied for second in the League scoring race, one point behind the Penguins' Sidney Crosby. Voracek is fifth with 79 points. ... Brayden Schenn has three goals and three assists in his past three games after going without a point in the previous six games.