Game 71 Preview: Flyers look to inch closer to playoff fold against slumping Islanders

16267849277_abc0d5dfb4_z(Flyerdelphia/Kate Frese)
 

As the NHL's regular season begins to wind down, the Flyers and New York Islanders both find themselves in the dogfight that is the Eastern Conference's wild-card race. 

 
They both got there under completely separate circumstances, too. The Orange and Black, of course, have been in the thick of the hunt throughout the second half of the season. The Islanders, however, are looking to hang on to their playoff hopes, as they've been toppled from the third Metropolitan Division spot that they've occupied since the beginning of the season and into the first wild-card spot.
A win for the Flyers brings them a point outside of the second spot, as Detroit is off until Tuesday. It would also bring them three points behind the Islanders for that first spot.
 
The Flyers and Islanders face off from Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.
 



 

Flyers Leaders GP G A P Islanders Leaders GP G A P
Claude Giroux 67 18 41 59 John Tavares 67 26 30 56
Wayne Simmonds 70 25 24 49 Kyle Okposo 68 19 36 55
Brayden Schenn 68 24 24 48 Frans Nielsen 70 19 27 46
Jakub Voracek 61 10 38 48 Nick Leddy 70 5 31 36
Shayne Gostisbehere 52 16 23 39 Brock Nelson 69 23 12 35
 
Player to Watch
24 Matt Read 91 John Tavares
Last 5 Games: 1G, 1A, 2Pts, Even Last 5 Games: 1G, 2A, 3Pts, +2
 
Matt Read may still be approaching the lowest-scoring full season of his career, but he's always found a way to produce on the scoresheet against the Islanders. His 11 goals and 18 points against the Isles are the most he's scored against any other team, and in the most recent meeting between both teams on Jan. 9, he lit the Islanders up for a goal and three assists in a 4-0 rout.
 
With 14 goals and 27 points in 33 career games against the Orange and Black, Islanders captain and perennial Hart Trophy nominee John Tavares is always a threat to keep an eye on. While he's been in a bit of a funk lately, he still posses an elite ability to take complete control of a game, and if the Flyers can figure out a way to shut him down (again), they'll have a much better chance of coming away with two points.
 
Goalie Matchup
35 Steve Mason 1 Thomas Greiss
17-16-8, 2.62 GAA, .915 SV% 31-19-9, 2.26 GAA, .928 SV%

With the loss of Michal Neuvirth for three weeks, expect Steve Mason to be carrying the load in the stretch run of the Flyers' season. Most recently, he stopped 31 of 34 shots in Saturday's 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh.

As Jaroslav Halak remains out of commission until April with a groin injury, journeyman backup Thomas Greiss has been carrying the reigns for the Isles. He has already shattered his career-highs for starts in a season, and will pad that total against the Orange and Black. He's faced the Flyers four times in his career, posting a 2-1-1 record, 2.22 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Flyers Projected Lineup

Scratches: Chris VandeVelde, R.J. Umberger, Evgeny Medvedev, Jordan Weal, Micheal Del Zotto

Left Wing Center Right Wing
10 Brayden Schenn 28 Claude Giroux 17 Wayne Simmonds
12 Michael Raffl 14 Sean Couturier 89 Sam Gagner
21 Scott Laughton 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare 25 Ryan White
93 Jakub Voracek 52 Nick Cousins 24 Matt Read
Defense    
47 Andrew MacDonald 53 Shayne Gostisbehere  
32 Mark Streit 55 Nick Schultz  
23 Brandon Manning 3 Radko Gudas  
Goalie    
35 Steve Mason    

The Orange and Black are expected to roll out the same lineup that they utilized against the Penguins on Saturday. Chris VandeVelde will remain unavailable, as he serves the final game of his two-game suspension.

Game Notes

  • Power Play: Flyers (15th, 10thth on road), Islanders (12th, 12th at home) 
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (22nd, 19th on road), Islanders (2nd, 2nd at home)
  • The Flyers have not yet beaten the Islanders at Barclays Center, and haven't beaten the Isles in New York since Oct. 26, 2013 (four games).
  • Milestone Watch: Wayne Simmonds is closing in on his 600th-career game, and will be within five games after tonight.

Where to Watch
TV: CSN
Radio: 93.3 WMMR

Rob Riches is a contributor to Flyerdelphia and Sports Talk Philly. Follow him on Twitter @Riches61