The Flyers will try to ride red-hot goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to another victory tonight, as Philadelphia visits the New York Islanders for an Atlantic Division battle at Nassau Coliseum.
Bryzgalov struggled for the first several months of the season, his first in Philadelphia since signing a nine-year, $51 million deal with the Flyers over the summer, but the Russian backstop has been dominant lately. Bryzgalov has won six straight starts and has recorded four shutouts over that span, including white-washings in each of his last three trips to the crease. John Vanbiesbrouck is the only other Flyers goaltender to record three straight shutouts.
The 31-year-old Bryzgalov needed to stop just 17 shots in his most recent shutout, Tuesday's 3-0 win over the visiting New Jersey Devils. Bryzgalov enters tonight riding a shutout streak of 196 minutes, 13 seconds, which is good for the third-longest such run in franchise history. Vanbiesbrouck holds the two longest shutout streaks in club history, including the record of 227:40, which was set from Oct. 17-26, 1999.
Philadelphia has won six of its last seven games, with the only loss coming with Sergei Bobrovsky in net on Sunday in the opener of the home-and-home series with the Devils. New Jersey posted a 4-1 win in Newark, but the Flyers rebounded with Tuesday's victory at the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia is now two points ahead of New Jersey for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race and the Flyers are just two behind fourth-seeded Pittsburgh.
Bryzgalov's latest shutout was his sixth of the season. Over the last two weeks, he has lowered his goals-against average from 2.82 to 2.53, and raised his save percentage from .898 to .908.
"I think a lot of times, success and personal success also creates happiness, you feel good, you feel confident coming to the rink," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette of his goaltender suddenly regaining form. "Personally, Bryz, he was smiling coming to the rink at the beginning of the year as well. He was the same then."
In addition to Bryzgalov's 17-save shutout, Flyers forward Danny Briere also snapped an epic goal drought in Tuesday's victory over the Devils. Briere hadn't scored in 23 straight games since registering a hat trick against Ottawa on January 7.
Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek also tallied for the Flyers, who have won four straight at home, but will play their next two on the road. Philly is boasting a strong 22-12-2 record as the guest this year and the Flyers have won five straight and 12 of their last 13 road games against the Islanders.
Tonight's tilt marks the final meeting of the year between the Flyers and Islanders. Philadelphia has taken three of five encounters so far this season and has won nine of 11 and 24 of the last 27 overall.
New York, which is 11 points out of a playoff spot in the East, has lost four in a row, but was able to record points in its last two trips to the ice. The Islanders dropped a 4-3 overtime decision against the Rangers on Sunday before losing in a shootout against Washington on Tuesday.
The Islanders led 2-0 after the first period against the visiting Capitals and built that lead to 3-0 in the second stanza before Washington scored four of the final five goals in regulation. Matt Hendricks eventually won it for Washington when scored in the fourth round of the shootout to lift the Caps to the 5-4 win.
John Tavares had two goals and an assist while Travis Hamonic added a goal and two assists for the Islanders. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 24 shots.
"We let them get back into the game, especially that late goal in the second," said Tavares. "That's been our problem all season long, not holding on to the lead."
Matt Moulson also scored for the Islanders, giving him 30 goals in three straight seasons. He is the first Isle to score 30 goals in three consecutive seasons since Zigmund Palffy did it in the 1995-96 through 1997-98 seasons.
The Isles are 15-15-6 as the host this year and have dropped two straight at the Coliseum.
On the injury front, Flyers defensemen Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Andrej Meszaros (lower body) are questionable for tonight. For New York, forward P.A. Parenteau is questionable with an upper-body injury.