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New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers @NHLdotcom
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GAME: New York Islanders (35-27-10-4) at Philadelphia Flyers (39-18-14-6).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

One star player returns for the Philadelphia Flyers and another exits.

Jeremy Roenick is expected to be back in the lineup Thursday for the Flyers when they host the surging New York Islanders.

Roenick has been out since sustaining a concussion and a broken jaw when he was hit by a shot off the stick of New York Rangers defenseman Boris Mironov on Feb. 12. Roenick will most likely wear a protective cage for about another month to guard his jaw.

"I figured it was enough time to heal, it's been six weeks now," Roenick said. "Six weeks was the parameter. And I knew going in that the playoffs were about two months away, so I had a good chance of coming back."

While the Flyers will get Roenick back, they will likely be without leading scorer Mark Recchi on Thursday.

Recchi missed practice Wednesday after his throat was cut by a skate in Tuesday's 4-2 victory at Carolina. He received 19 stitches but the cut reopened early Wednesday and he needed more stitches.

Recchi joins captain Keith Primeau and defensemen Vladimir Malakhov and Eric Desjardins on the Flyers' injured list.

Sean Burke made 26 saves for his first win in nearly a month, and Branko Radivojevic had a goal and an assist Tuesday for Philadelphia.

Burke, the backup to Robert Esche, had been 0-2-2 since beating Chicago on Feb. 24. Burke's 303rd career win moved him past Turk Broda into 18th place on the all-time list.

"I wasn't really worried about who I was passing or where I was in the overall standings, I just needed a win," Burke said. "I haven't had one for a while and our team has played fairly well. I didn't want to come in here today and come out of here with anything less than two points."

Seven points over their final five games will clinch the Atlantic Division title for the Flyers, who are trying to hold off New Jersey. Philadelphia is one point behind Tampa Bay for the best record in the Eastern Conference, which guarantees home-ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Five wins in six games has helped the Islanders open a comfortable lead over Buffalo in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. New York, bidding for its third straight playoff appearance, has outscored opponents 9-1 during a three-game win streak.

New York's Rick DiPietro followed one of his best performances of the season with his second consecutive shutout, 3-0 over visiting Washington on Tuesday.

DiPietro needed to make only 17 saves after he stopped 29 shots in a 3-0 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

DiPietro is 5-0 in his last six games, allowing seven goals.

"He probably sees the puck as a big balloon coming at him right now," Islanders defenseman Kenny Jonsson said.

The Islanders have surrendered one goal or fewer in each of their last five wins.

STANDINGS: Islanders - 84 points, 3rd place, 14 PB, Atlantic Division. Flyers - 98 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Trent Hunter, 24 goals; Oleg Kvasha, 31 assists; Hunter and Jason Blake, 47 points; Eric Cairns, 182 PIM. Flyers - Recchi, 26 goals, 46 assists and 72 points; Donald Brashear, 206 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 23): Islanders - Power play: 15.8 percent (47 for 298), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.3 percent (279 for 331), 15th. Flyers - Power play: 22.3 percent (64 for 287), 1st. Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (273 for 325), 18th.

GOALTENDERS: Islanders - DiPietro (21-16-5, 5 SO, 2.33 GAA); Garth Snow (14-15-5, 1, 2.77). Flyers - Esche (21-8-6, 3, 1.87); Burke (15-20-7, 1, 2.83).

SEASON SERIES: Flyers, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 23; Islanders, 4-2. At Uniondale, N.Y., Arron Asham scored a pair of third-period goals and Blake snapped a tie with 5:00 left in regulation, leading New York to its fifth straight home win.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 11-17-7-3 on the road; Flyers - 24-8-3-3 at home.

Associated Press
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