The Philadelphia Flyers are enjoying their best stretch of the season. An almost sure way to keep those good feelings going is a home game against the reeling New York Islanders.
With their slow start a fading memory, the surging Flyers look to continue their mastery of the visiting Islanders on Saturday night.
A season-opening three-game losing streak led to the Flyers firing coach Peter Laviolette and replacing him with assistant Craig Berube. The change didn't pay immediate dividends as the team dropped four of the first five games under Berube, but Philadelphia has gone 8-3-2 since to climb out of last place in the Metropolitan Division.
The turnaround continued Thursday with a 4-1 victory over Buffalo as the Flyers registered a season-high 46 shots and got two goals from Matt Read. Vincent Lecavalier and Scott Hartnell also tallied for Philadelphia (9-10-2), which has outscored opponents 24-8 during a 5-0-1 streak.
"We're having fun out there, doing simple things, not turning pucks over and just playing simple hockey," Read said. "We're a good team, and it just takes a matter of time and a couple of lucky bounces to get a positive atmosphere and get things clicking and going our way."
Thursday marked another strong offensive effort for the Flyers, who are averaging 3.6 goals the last six games after scoring 1.5 in the first 15.
"They're playing good hockey," Berube said. "There are things they can improve on. You're always working to get better, and that's what we're going to do."
Outstanding goaltending from both Steve Mason and Ray Emery has also been a factor in the recent success.
Mason is 3-0-2 with a 1.56 goals-against average in his last five starts, while Emery, who made 29 saves Thursday, is 3-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA in his past four.
Mason stopped 26 shots in Philadelphia's 5-2 win on Long Island on Oct. 26 in the teams' first meeting this season, but Emery is 6-0-1 with a 1.69 GAA lifetime against the Islanders.
Success against the Islanders, though, has become the norm for the Flyers, who are 24-3-2 in the series since the 2008-09 season. They are 15-1-2 in the last 18 home games versus New York, though one of those losses was a 4-3 shootout defeat March 13.
After beating league-worst Buffalo, the Flyers get another break from the schedule with the last-place Islanders in town. New York (8-12-3) lost for the seventh time in nine games and sixth straight on the road with Friday's 4-3 defeat to Pittsburgh.
The Islanders rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits only to allow Sidney Crosby's goal with 1:16 remaining, continuing their trend of poor third periods.
They have been outscored 14-3 in the third over the last eight games.
"We worked hard and it came down to a play at the end of the game," coach Jack Capuano told the team's official website. "We have to find a way with a minute left."
A recent groin injury to veteran Evgeni Nabokov has left the No. 1 job to Kevin Poulin, but he's struggled in that role. Poulin has compiled an .867 save percentage in his last four appearances and is 0-2-0 with a 3.05 GAA in two career starts against the Flyers.
The Islanders' shaky goaltending hasn't been helped by the league's worst penalty-killing unit, which has allowed 17 goals over the last 41 short-handed situations.
Thomas Vanek was a bright spot Friday with two goals in his return after missing five games with an upper-body injury.