Though they may be the team with the fewest points, history suggests that the Philadelphia Flyers will be the toughest opponent for the New York Islanders on their big four-game road trip.
The Isles look to pick up just their third victory in their past 17 trips to Philadelphia as they battle the struggling Flyers on Thursday night.
Aiming to snap a five-year playoff drought, the Islanders sit ninth overall in the Eastern Conference with 33 points, just two back of the eighth-place New York Rangers as the season begins to wind down.
New York snapped a three-game slide with Sunday's 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers to wrap a four-game homestand, then began its current jaunt with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. After visiting Philadelphia, New York will visit the top two teams in the Atlantic Division in Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey scored first-period goals before the Caps responded with a pair of tallies in the middle frame. However, John Tavares prevented his team from squandering two points as he put home his 20th goal of the season with 5:18 to play.
Matt Moulson picked up an assist on Tavares' goal, his ninth in the past nine games and 100th of his career. The tally also made a winner out of Evgeni Nabokov, who contributed 20 saves.
"Not much has been accomplished just yet," said Tavares, "so we've got to focus on the next game. We're obviously happy with the result but it doesn't mean a whole lot if we can't get some momentum here."
New York would love to create some momentum with its first three-game winning streak of the season, but tonight figures to be a challenge even if Philadelphia currently ranks 14th out of 15 teams in the East and is seven points back of a playoff spot.
That's because the Flyers are 14-1-1 in their last 16 at home against the Islanders and defeated their division rivals 7-0 on Long Island back on Feb. 18 in the first of four meetings this season.
Nabokov allowed all seven goals on 25 shots as the Isles dropped their third straight to the Flyers, who have won 29 of the last 33 meetings overall.
Claude Giroux scored twice and had an assist, while Jakub Voracek had four assists and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 19 saves for his only shutout of the season.
The Flyers would love to extend their success over the Islanders and breathe some life into their fading playoff hopes. Philadelphia is just 2-6-1 in its last nine and dropped its third in a row with Tuesday's 5-2 setback to the Rangers.
Voracek had a goal and an assist, while Wayne Simmonds also lit the lamp in the opener of a five-game homestand. Giroux had two assists and Bryzgalov made 26 saves.
"It's a disappointing night," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. "We needed to compete better than we did and we didn't."
Wayne Simmonds also lit the lamp in the setback, with Claude Giroux assisting on both Flyers goals and Ilya Bryzgalov stopping 26-of-31 shots.
The Flyers played without forward Danny Briere (concussion) and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann (upper body) for a second straight game. Blueliner Andrej Meszaros, meanwhile, re-injured his left shoulder versus the Rangers and could be out for the rest of the season.