(SportsNetwork.com) – The Philadelphia Flyers will put their recent surge to
the test on Thursday when they welcome the New York Islanders for a
Metropolitan Division battle at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers have won a season-high four straight and own a 5-1-0 record over
their last six outings. However, the one loss during that six-game stretch
came in a 7-4 road setback to the Islanders on Jan. 19.
Nikolay Kulemin recorded two goals and an assist to lead the way for New York
in the recent lopsided win over the Flyers, who have lost the last three
meetings against the Isles.
Tonight’s test is this season’s first meeting between the clubs in
Philadelphia, where the Flyers have claimed three straight, four of five and
17 of the past 20 encounters versus New York.
The Islanders enter Thursday’s Metro clash on a three-game losing streak and
another loss tonight would give Jack Capuano’s club its longest skid of the
season. The recent 0-3-0 swoon has allowed Pittsburgh to take over first place
in the division, where the Penguins sit one point ahead of New York. The Pens
moved into first place thanks to Wednesday’s win in Edmonton.
New York’s latest setback came Tuesday against the visiting Florida Panthers,
who received the game-winning goal off the stick of Jimmy Hayes early in the
third period. Hayes also supplied an empty-netter in the final minute to seal
Florida’s 4-2 triumph at Nassau Coliseum.
Anders Lee also had two goals in a losing effort for the Isles, while Jaroslav
Halak turned aside 26-of-29 chances in defeat.
“(The Panthers) did play good; don’t get me wrong. But we did a couple of
things that weren’t us, and we just have to get back to what we do best,”
Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk remarked.
Halak is expected to start tonight and owns a 6-2-0 record and 2.18 goals
against average in his career versus Philadelphia.
The Flyers, meanwhile, should be well-rested for tonight, having been idle
since posting their fourth win in a row Saturday against the visiting Toronto
Maple Leafs. The 1-0 regulation win kept Philadelphia perfect on a five-game
homestand which ends tonight.
Michael Del Zotto recorded the only goal on Saturday and Steve Mason stopped
30 shots to help the Flyers shut out the Maple Leafs. Del Zotto extended his
point streak to a career-best six games. The defenseman has three goals and
four assist during the run, which is the longest current point streak in
Del Zotto beat James Reimer high and inside the far post from a sharp angle in
the left circle just 4:05 into the contest and Mason did the rest in his 100th
career appearance with Philadelphia.
Mason recorded his second shutout of the season and 25th of his career.
“Right from the start, it was almost like one goal was going to be enough, and
that’s what it turned out to be,” said Mason. “For a goaltender, you just have
to focus on the next shot and not look at the big picture.”
Mason is likely to start again tonight. He is 4-1-2 with a 2.08 GAA in eight
career outings against the Islanders.
The Flyers could get rookie centerman Scott Laughton and veteran defenseman
Nicklas Grossmann back tonight. Laughton missed the last seven games with a
concussion suffered on Jan. 14 against Washington. Grossmann has sat out the
last 10 contests with an injured right shoulder.
After capping its homestand tonight, Philadelphia will set out on a four-game
road trip beginning with Sunday’s contest in Washington. The Flyers are 15-7-3
as the host compared to a dreadful 7-15-4 mark away from the City of Brotherly