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Preview: Islanders at Flyers

New York, Philadelphia aiming to close ground in chase for Eastern Conference wild-card berth

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

ISLANDERS (35-28-12) at FLYERS (36-32-8)

7 p.m. ET; SN1, SNO, CSN-PH, MSG+, NHL.TV


Islanders team scope

The New York Islanders are four points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, with the Islanders holding one game in hand. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk will return after a 12-game absence because of a lower-body injury sustained blocking a shot against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 3. "It was a lot longer than we thought it was going to be, but I'm ready now," Boychuk said after an optional morning skate. "You can't worry about it [blocking another shot]. You have to play the way you know how to and do anything you can to help the team." The Islanders went 5-6-1 without Boychuk, who is third on the Islanders with an average ice time of 20:37 per game. Coach Doug Weight said it will be a balancing act with how much he plays Boychuk, in part because they play the New Jersey Devils on Friday. "He's going to come in and move bodies from in front of the net, shoot pucks," Weight said. "We worked hard on his feet the past five, six days. There'll be some questions as we go if we get to some high minutes. You see how he reacts after tonight's game. But I'm playing today like it's Game 82 and we need to win. That's how I'm addressing it. We'll address tomorrow after a victory, hopefully."


Flyers team scope

The Philadelphia Flyers have won two straight games and four of their past six, but remain six points behind the Bruins for the second wild card from the East with six games remaining. "We know the position we're in right now," center Claude Giroux said. "It's not a position we thought we'd be in at the start of the year. For us, we're still in the race. We've got to go one game at a time." Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 14th time in the past 16 games. The workload hasn't affected Mason, who is 8-4-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in his past 13 games. He has faced more than 30 shots four times in those 13 games, and more than 35 once. "The workload is never going to be easy, it's a difficult league," Mason said. "But the physical strain of not having to face 30-plus shots every night is big, and that's something the team has tried to really focus on, the defensive play, trying to limit the quality chances."


Islanders projected lineup

Anders Lee -- John Tavares -- Josh Bailey

Alan Quine -- Anthony Beauvillier -- Joshua Ho-Sang

Andrew Ladd -- Brock Nelson -- Jason Chimera

Stephen Gionta -- Casey Cizikas -- Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy -- Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan -- Travis Hamonic

Dennis Seidenberg -- Adam Pelech

Thomas Greiss

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Scott Mayfield, Shane Prince, Jean-Francois Berube, Thomas Hickey

Injured: Ryan Strome (upper body), Nikolay Kulemin (upper body)


Flyers projected lineup

Matt Read -- Claude Giroux -- Jakub Voracek

Jordan Weal -- Valtteri Filppula -- Wayne Simmonds

Dale Weise -- Sean Couturier -- Brayden Schenn

Chris VandeVelde -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Travis Konecny

Ivan Provorov -- Andrew MacDonald

Michael Del Zotto -- Shayne Gostisbehere

Brandon Manning -- Radko Gudas

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Nick Schultz, Roman Lyubimov

Injured: Nick Cousins (upper body), Michael Raffl (lower body)


Status report

Boychuk's return means Hickey likely will be a healthy scratch. … Cousins took part in the morning skate but remains out of the lineup for the eighth straight game.


Who's hot

Tavares has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his past 12 games. … Giroux has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in his past 12 games. … Schenn (four goals, four assists) and Couturier (two goals, six assists) each has eight points in his past nine games.

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