Flyers' postseason aspirations top of mind vs. Islanders
A loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night cost the New York Islanders sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division but left them focusing on the positives of their situation.
The Islanders will look to begin maximizing the advantages they have over the Capitals on Sunday, when New York hosts the Philadelphia Flyers in another game between Metropolitan Division rivals at Nassau Coliseum.
Both the Islanders and Flyers were off Saturday after playing division games Friday, when New York fell to the visiting Capitals, 3-1, and Philadelphia beat the host New Jersey Devils, 6-3.
The Islanders and Capitals will both enter Sunday's game with 81 points, but New York has played one fewer game than Washington -- which faces the New York Rangers on Sunday -- and is already pondering the potential implications of April 6, when the two teams play each other in the regular-season finale.
Of course, to make the last game of the season against the Capitals a meaningful one, the Islanders will need to take care of business over the next six weeks, especially this coming week, when they play four games against the Flyers and Ottawa Senators.
"We still have a game in hand," said Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, who will be seeking his 800th NHL win on Sunday. "Our focus has to be just the next game. If it comes down to the last game of the season for placing, then it is what it is. It'll be a great situation where you're getting ready for the playoffs and it might be a playoff game."
The Flyers, who are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, are already in playoff mode as they try to overcome long odds and reach the postseason. Philadelphia has collected at least one point in six of its last nine games (6-2-1).
The win Friday wasn't a thing of beauty for the Flyers, who squandered a 2-0 lead against the last-place Devils before scoring four unanswered goals in a span of a little more than seven minutes spanning the second and third periods. But at this time of the year, any points are good points for Philadelphia.
"Everyone's kind of going through the motions at this time of the year," said Flyers center Sean Couturier, who received credit for the game-winning goal by scoring the second goal in the flurry. "There's no excuses, either. We need the points and we found a way to get them."
A pair of veteran goalies are likely to oppose each other Sunday afternoon.
After Thomas Greiss made 26 saves in Friday's loss, the Islanders are expected to turn back to number one netminder Robin Lehner, who last played Thursday, when he recorded 34 saves and earned the win as New York beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-1.
Brian Elliott, who is temporarily the Flyers' top goalie with rookie phenom Carter Hart sidelined due to an ankle injury, should return after sitting out Friday, when Cam Talbot won his Philadelphia debut by making 30 saves. Elliott also last played Thursday, when he took the loss after recording 36 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Lehner is 3-5-0 in eight career games against the Flyers. Elliott is 6-2-6 in 14 appearances against the Islanders.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 2, 2019