Is it possible that the New York Islanders are no longer content to be the whipping boys of the division? Is it possible that the Islanders are emerging as some sort of threat?
At first glance, it certainly seems that way. They're 8-2-0 in their last ten and they've been picking up points like crazy, trying to close the gap in the division.
Whether the Isles are a good team or just a lucky one, the Flyers are facing off against them today, beginning their third home and home this season. In previous home and homes, the Flyers have drawn in each, managing a win and a loss against both the Capitals and the Blue Jackets.
The Islanders are wrapping up a six game road trip with this game at the Wells Fargo, and boy, have they been getting it done as of late. And this is against quality competition, too: the Lightning, the Avalanche, the Blackhawks, the Bruins, and the Wild to name a few. Yep, all wins. If they manage to escape with back to back wins against the Flyers, the Islanders would be in great position to start doing some serious damage. Sort of scary, right? Right, so let's not think about that anymore.
Let's think about how great the second line is. As Kurt has admitted to previously, I had very little faith in the combination but man, they just keep shoving it in my face. Schenn, Simmonds and Hartnell continued their utter domination on Thursday night, and even though the Flyers didn't get the win, it says a lot about the depth of the team that they don't have to rely on the top line to constantly be the only point-getters. Makes ya feel good!
With the Islanders touting the league's worst penalty kill, the Flyers will be looking to bolster their power-play stats tonight. Of course, the fact that the Flyers are currently one of the league's worst in capitalizing on power-plays at home doesn't help matters. Still, with such a blatant weak spot in the Islanders game, you have to think that the Flyers make them pay.
On the injury front, the Islanders will again be without their top defenseman, Travis Hamonic. Hamonic suffered an upper-body injury on Sunday in Dallas and the injury is widely speculated to be a concussion. They're also still without Evgeni Nabakov. This means that Kevin Poulin will be in goal, and his overall save percent is pretty bad. In his last couple of starts, he's been hit or miss. When he's been on, though, he's been stellar (like, .967 stellar).
Mason will be going against Poulin tonight. Should be a confidence boost for him. After looking and sounding pretty dejected after the loss to the Preds, Mason signed a contract extension this morning. It's a three year deal worth 12.3 million, and...well, the timing is certainly interesting, isn't it? Expect more on this development later.
Divisional contests are obviously the best opportunity to improve chances for playoffs while simultaneously knocking opponents down a couple pegs. Two points that the Flyers get are two points the bad guys don't get. Unless we're talking about overtime, which...please avoid that. My fragile constitution can't handle it anymore.
Either way, it should be an fun game tonight. Let's go, good guys! Score goals! Do the thing!