PREVIEW: FLYERS VS. ISLANDERS
Completing a five-game homestand, Craig Berube’s Philadelphia Flyers (22-22-7) host Jack Capuano’s New York Islanders (32-17-1) at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.
This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, and the first of two in Philadelphia.
On Nov. 24 in Uniondale, the teams skated to a 0-0 tie through 65 minutes of hockey but New York had the better of the play. The Islanders prevailed in a shootout. On Jan. 19 in Uniondale, the Islanders’ speed and aggressiveness was too much for Philly to handle in a 7-4 decision. The season series will conclude on April 7 in Philly.
The Flyers have had four idle nights since their last game. Following this game, they have two nights off before starting a four-game road trip on Sunday afternoon in Washington. The Isles’ schedule hasn’t been quite as light as Philly’s of late but the team’s home game against Florida on Tuesday has been their lone game since last Saturday. FLYERS OUTLOOK
The Flyers bring a four-game winning streak into this game. For the season, the Flyers are 15-7-3 on home ice, compared to its dismal 7-15-4 away record.
Philly is coming off a 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. An early first-period goal by Michael Del Zotto stood up the rest of the way behind a 30-save shutout by Steve Mason.
The last time the Flyers played the Islanders, they paid the price repeatedly for turnovers that allowed New York to crank up its transitional game. Philly’s defense also got clobbered by a pounding forecheck, and the level of back pressure from the forwards was subpar. The one thing the Flyers did not have trouble with was finding time and space to make offensive plays of their own. At the end of the day, however, even scoring four goals was not nearly enough to overcome the Isles.
Despite the team’s sparse schedule of late and being held off the scoresheet in the Toronto game, Jakub Voracek leads the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy race with 58 points and also paces the league with 41 assists. Wayne Simmonds in the team goal-scoring lead with 18 goals overall and 11 power play goals (tied for third in the NHL).
Flyers captain Claude Giroux enters this game fourth in the NHL with 36 assists and tied for seventh in the Art Ross Trophy race (52 points). Giroux’s 25 power play points (nine power play goals, 16 power play assists) lead the NHL.
Mark Streit enters this game eighth in scoring among the NHL defensemen, with 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists). His 20 points on the power play (four goals, 16 assists) are third among NHL defensemen this season.
Overall, the Flyers have six different players who have reached double-digit goals on the season: Simmonds (18), Voracek (17), Giroux (16), Michael Raffl (12), Brayden Schenn (11) and Couturier (11). Winger R.J. Umberger has nine goals to date.
In goal, Mason brings the NHL’s sixth-highest save percentage into this game among qualifying netminders. For season, he has posted a .924 save percentage, 2.32 goals against average, two shutouts and an 11-12-6 record into this game in 32 games overall and 30 starts. He has been outstanding at home, posting a 1.97 goals against average, .935 save percentage and 10-4-2 record in 17 outings at the Wells Fargo Center.
Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, out since suffering a right shoulder injury on Jan. 8, will return to the lineup after a 10-game absence. Carlo Colaiacovo will be a healthy scratch.
Rookie center Scott Laughton (concussion sustained Jan. 14) will likely return to the lineup for this game. He has centered a line with Ryan White and Simmonds this week at practice.
Michael Raffl (pneumonia) remains out of the lineup. So does defenseman Braydon Coburn, who was projected to miss approximately four weeks from the time he sustained a left foot injury on Jan. 12. Coburn skated on his own on Wednesday.
The Flyers are still awaiting potential clearance for Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) to return to play hockey this season. No final announcement has been made.
Zac Rinaldo will serve the fourth game of an eight-game NHL suspension for charging/boarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang on Jan. 20. He is eligible to return for the Feb. 17 home game against Columbus. Islanders outlook
The Islanders have had a breakthrough season in the standings but that does not mean the club has no weaknesses or areas of concern. The club has lost three in a row in regulation heading into this game. Nevertheless, the team can still regain the Metropolitan Division lead with a win over the Flyers and brings the NHL’s fourth-best road record (15-11-1) into this game.
The Isles are coming off a 4-2 home loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The game was tied entering the third period before an early third-period goal by Jimmy Hayes and a late empty-netter sealed the game for Florida. Anders Lee scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season in a losing cause for New York. Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 of 29 shots. The Isles generated 34 shots on goal and 68 shot attempts (20 blocked, 14 missed).
New York relies heavily on attacking with speed and pressuring the puck. The team will have to tighten things up defensively — especially on the penalty kill — and Halak will need to play his best hockey in goal but there is no doubt that the fourth highest-scoring team (3.08 goals per game) in the NHL can fill the net with regularity.
The Islanders have 10 players who have registered at least 20 points this season and five who have posted double-digit goals. John Tavares leads the way with 23 goals and 49 points in 50 games. On the power play, Tavares has compiled 10 goals and 10 assists.
Kyle Okposo (detached retina) is out of the lineup for six to eight weeks from Feb. 3; a huge loss for the Islanders. Okposo is second on the team with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) overall and 16 power play points. Elsewhere on the Islanders’ injury front, Matt Carkner (back) and Eric Boulton (lower body) are on injured reserve. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.71 (17th), Islanders 3.08 (4th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.86 (24th), Islanders 2.84 (23rd)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.00 (19th), Islanders 1.11 (11th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 23.4% (4th), Islanders 18.8% (T-14th)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 74.8% (28th), Islanders 72.7% (30th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.0% (13th), Islanders 49.1% (17th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)
10 Brayden Schenn – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek
18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read
25 Ryan White – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds
76 Chris VandeVelde – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier
55 Nick Schultz – 32 Mark Streit
15 Michael Del Zotto – 22 Luke Schenn
8 Nickla Grossmann – 47 Andrew MacDonald
35 Steve Mason
[29 Ray Emery]
Scratches: Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Braydon Coburn (IR, left foot), Zac Rinaldo (suspension), Michael Raffl (pneumonia).
84 Mikhail Grabovski – 91 John Tavares – 12 Josh Bailey
27 Anders Lee – 51 Frans Nielsen – 18 Ryan Strome
40 Michael Grabner – 29 Brock Nelson – 86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck
44 Calvin de Haan – 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Nick Leddy – 55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey – 11 Lubomir Visnovsky
41 Jaroslav Halak
[30 Chad Johnson]
Scratches: Kyle Okposo (IR, detached retina), Matt Carkner (IR, back), Eric Boulton (IR, lower body), Matt Donovan (healthy), Brian Strait (healthy).