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Preview: Flyers try to stop the bleeding on the Island

Congrats to Keith Yandle, I guess.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Islanders Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

For the third time this season and the third time in eight days, the Flyers will face the New York Islanders, this time in New York.

The Flyers have a shot at franchise history tonight. The longest winless streak in team history is 12, but things are actually a little more muddled than that for two reasons: the NHL doesn’t count overtime and shootout losses in losing streaks, only winless streaks, and the franchise’s previous winless streaks include ties. The 12 game winless streak came in February and March of 1999, achieved by a team that finished 37-29-19 and second place in the division. That streak included four ties and over those 12 games they put 361 shots on net and allowed 281. The two 11 game winless streaks in the team’s history also included two ties each.

This streak, at 0-9-3 is already worse than 1999’s 0-8-4, but when you consider that the final number there is actual losses in the former (albeit one shootout loss, so, you know…) and ties in the latter, there’s not much competition. No matter what happens tonight, this is already as bad a streak as they’ve ever had.

The Flyers’ poor play this season has collided head on with their poor luck—COVID-19 and injuries have affected the entire league* but the latter has taken its toll on a team that seemingly wasn’t very good to begin with. The Flyers are currently without Ryan Ellis, Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Joel Farabee, and Wade Allison. They recently moved Couturier from injury reserve to long term injury reserve. Just last night they had to resort to playing a defenseman with no points in 27 games on the fourth line.

The Islanders, meanwhile, seem like a good (or at least average) team that has been hampered by bad luck this season. They’ve just finally climbed into NHL .500, they have as many standings points as the Flyers in eight less games, and are now ninth in the conference by points percentage. They’re 7-2-1 in their last 10 and have points in 13 of their last 17.

The net battle tonight will be a rematch of the first Flyers-Islanders match-up, as Martin Jones gets the call against Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin is 11-7-5 on the season with a .928 save percentage and held the Flyers to just a single goal on 27 shots last Monday. Jones, meanwhile, is coming off his worst game of the season, Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, in which he allowed 4 goals on 8 shots and left before the first period’s final buzzer.

After the Nick Seeler at wing experiment last night, the Flyers have called up Connor Bunnaman and Linus Sandin, with Sandin expecting to make his NHL debut tonight. Sandin has 7 points in 13 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season, having dealt with a few injuries since signing a one-year entry level contract with the Flyers in 2020.

*world

Projected Flyers lines:

James van Riemsdyk—Claude Giroux—Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom—Scott Laughton—Travis Konecny
Gerry Mayhew—Morgan Frost—Max Willman
Linus Sandin—Connor Bunnaman—Zack MacEwen

Ivan Provorov—Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim—Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle—Cam York

Martin Jones
(Carter Hart)

Projected Islanders lines:

Anders Lee—Mathew Barzal—Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier—BrockNelson—Keiffer Bellows
Zach Parise—Jean-Gabriel Pageau—Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin—Casey Cizikas—Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech—Scott Mayfield
Zdeno Chara—Noah Dobson
Robin Salo—Andy Greene

Ilya Sorokin
(Semyon Varlamov)

Keep an eye on:

  • Cam Atkinson, who is the Flyers’ high scorer during the last 12 games with 3 goals and 8 assists, for a near point-per-loss pace. Atkinson has somehow been on the ice for more Flyers goals than goals against this season, despite the Flyers -33 goal differential on the year.
  • Adam Pelech, who has largely been tasked with holding the Islanders defense corps together with the extended absence of Ryan Pulock. Pelech leads the team in 5-on-5 shots for percentage and is first among defenseman in 5-on-5 Corsi for percentage in 30 of the team’s 34 games this season.
  • Claude Giroux, who is literally the only other Flyer whose play is worthy of note at this point. Giroux is climbing up Flyers records books as quickly as he’s climbing up trade target lists.
  • The Islanders fourth line, which is made up of Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, and Matt Martin and has been regaining form in the most recent stretch of games. The “Identity Line” has been one of the most stable elements of this Islanders team for the past few season, but have struggled at times in the 2021-22 campaign. After going 24 games with no goals and a single assist, Cizikas has scored in two of the last three, and the line shut out the Flyers top line last week.
  • No other Philadelphia Flyer.

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers are 142-97-26-18 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Islanders, including a 4-1 loss last Monday and a shootout loss the day after. They are 61-61-15-7 in games in New York and lost the first and, to date, only game they’ve played in the new UBS Arena in Elmont.
  • Unless there’s some unexpected news between now and puck drop, Keith Yandle’s consecutive games streak will hit 965 tonight, becoming the longest in NHL history. Yandle hasn’t exactly lit things up in his time as a Philadelphia Flyer, and you may have thoughts about that. Here are mine.
  • The only teams in the league that have been scored on more times than the Flyers are the Arizona Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens. The only two teams that are averaging more goals against per game while scoring less goals per game than the Flyers are the Arizona Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens.
  • The Flyers current winless streak is a league worst this season and longer than any such streak in 2020-21. The last team to go winless in 12 games was the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings, who finished the season 17-49-5. There have only been three teams to have a streak of 13 games or more in the 2010s are the 2010-11 Islanders, the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres, and last year’s Sabres.
  • After last night, Nick Seeler has now played more games for the Flyers without scoring a single point than anyone else in franchise history. He passed Randy Holt, a defenseman who played 26 games for the Flyers in 1984 before retiring. There’s only been one other player to play 20+ games for the Flyers without a point—Brantt Myhres, who played 23 games in 1998
  • Clark Gillies scored 663 points in 872 games for the Islanders, numbers that put him fourth and fifth, respectively, in the franchise’s history. Gillies is one of five Hall of Famers to suit up for the Islanders and his number 9 is one of eight the franchise has retired. Gillies died of cancer four days ago at the age of 67.

*All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-reference.com.