Isles Look to Rebound Against the Flyers
The New York Islanders lost out on a great opportunity to gain two points against a streaking Washington Capitals team on Tuesday night, but the team must regroup for tonight's contest against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers come in ranked as the best offensive team in the NHL as they have scored an average of 3.2 goals per game this season. However, the month of February was not at all kind to the Flyers as they went 5-7-1 and weren't able to put together any kind of consistent winning streak.(Clydeorama/Flickr)
The Islanders suffered much the same fate throughout February and both teams will be looking to start off the month of March on the right foot. The loss to the Washington Capitals was undoubtedly a bitter pill to swallow for the Islanders as they were 3:30 away from taking two points from the Caps and helping their chances for a playoff push. Troy Brouwer (2 goals in the final minutes) put an end to such hopes before Alex Ovechkin sealed the deal in overtime, but the Islanders cannot afford to cry over spilled milk, especially when trying to regain their road dominance in Philadelphia.
The Islanders have won the past two contests against the Flyers and Philadelphia will be looking to reverse that trend in the comforts of the Wells Fargo Center. If the Isles are to come out of this game with 2 points, then the John Tavares line must come out strong and try to put the Islanders on the scoreboard early. Michael Grabner has not had a great second season in an Islander uniform, but he was getting chances against Washington and he must keep up the same work ethic as one of his shots will eventually find the back of the net.
On the other hand, Evgeni Nabokov has been a rock in goal for the New York Islanders and it wouldn't be surprising to see the veteran netminder sign a contract extension with the Isles as he seems to be having fun and enjoying helping out the Islanders. Nabokov will get the start against the Flyers tonight with Anders Nilsson backing him up on an emergency call-up as Al Montoya is day to day with an upper body injury. Ilya Bryzgalov will start on the opposite end of the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Russian goaltender will come out motivated for this contest as he has never beaten the Islanders in his NHL career (0-1-1) and suffered a disheartening loss to the Isles in a 1-0 shootout in February.
The lines that Jack Capuano put on the ice for Tuesday night's game seemed to click very well, especially the second and third lines. Josh Bailey scored a spectacular goal to get the Islanders on the board against Washington and Michael Grabner made the most of his time on the Isles' third line as he had 3 shots on goal in just over 15 minutes of ice time. The Ullstrom-Nielsen-Bailey line accounted for 6 of the Isles' 24 overall shots and the group should stick together against the Flyers since they proved that they had some pretty good chemistry together.
In contrast, Kyle Okposo desperately needs to find his scoring touch and start putting shots on net. Okposo has only registered 4 shots on goal in his last 3 games and needs to drive to the net and make something happen sooner rather than later. It is obviously easier said than done, but with 31 points and a -18 rating in 60 games played this year, Okposo needs to step up his offensive production in order for the Isles to have any hope of making the playoffs.
With 19 games left in the NHL regular season, it looks as though the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture will be constantly fluctuating. The Islanders are currently 8 points behind the Capitals for the eighth and final spot and both teams have the same amount of games left to play. Even though the Islanders will play a number of playoff-bound teams in their final 19 game stretch, they must make sure to come ready to play a full physical 60 minutes of hockey in order to gain enough points to be near the playoff picture come April.