(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders have played their best hockey of the season over the last few weeks and they'll shoot for a sixth win in seven games when they open a home-and-home series Saturday in Philadelphia.
Despite winning five of six and eight of their last 10 games, the Islanders still sit in last place in the Metropolitan Division with 45 points. However, New York is not that far out of the playoff spot in the East, as it enters Saturday trailing Washington by seven points for the eighth seed in the conference.
The Isles also are only eight points removed from the Flyers, who are currently tied for second in the Metro Division.
The Flyers have fared well against New York recently, taking three straight, six of eight and 14 of the past 18 encounters with the Islanders. Philly also has claimed two in a row, three of four and 16 of 19 on home ice in this series.
New York is coming off a 2-1 shootout win Thursday in Tampa Bay. Frans Nielsen scored the winner in the decisive phase to help the Isles improve its record to 4-1-0 during their six-game road trip.
Nielsen was the first skater for New York in the shootout and he buried his shot past Ben Bishop. Kevin Poulin then stopped Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman for the win. Poulin yielded just one goal on 30 shots, a power-play tally to Martin St. Louis at the 5:45 mark of the opening period
"I thought our start was pretty good tonight despite giving up the power-play goal," said New York head coach Jack Capuano. "We got some big saves and the penalty kill really played well today."
Thomas Vanek scored the goal in regulation for the Islanders late in the second period, with Nielsen and John Tavares providing the assists.
New York has won eight of its past nine on the road and is 12-14-0 as the guest this season.
The Flyers, meanwhile, lost for the third time in four games on Thursday, dropping the first of two straight at home in a 4-3 shootout loss against the Nashville Predators. Philadelphia was happy to get the point, however, as Wayne Simmonds sent the game to overtime by scoring the tying goal with 1:24 remaining in regulation.
Simmonds is leading the Flyers with 16 goals this season and he has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) over his last 15 games. With 35 points (16G, 19A), Simmonds is trailing only captain Claude Giroux (42 PTS - 13G, 29A) for the team scoring lead.
Roman Josi netted the deciding score in the seventh round of the shootout to secure the extra point for the Preds. Flyers goaltender Steve Mason stopped the first four Nashville shooters before allowing three in a row to Matt Cullen, Ryan Ellis and Josi.
Simmonds notched three points on a score and two helpers for the Flyers, losers of two in a row on home ice after taking 10 straight at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We moved our feet, played the way we wanted to play. We had our chances, we played well. We were able to tie it up at the end there. (Mason) did a good job. We need to find a way to get the two points, though," said Giroux.
Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn produced additional offense, while Mason made 34 stops in defeat.
The Flyers will visit Long Island on Monday afternoon to complete this home- and-home set.