Very much in the hunt for a playoff spot, New York (35-27-11) plays four of its remaining nine games on the road and two of them come in Philadelphia. The Flyers own a league-worst 8-20-7 home record, but two of those wins came in the Islanders’ two trips to the Wachovia Center.
New York enters this matchup having lost five straight road games, giving up 23 goals while going 0-3-2.
The Islanders had lost four in a row overall—all on the road—before returning home to beat Pittsburgh 3-1 on Thursday. The win pulled New York within one point of the playoff cutoff in the Eastern Conference.
“There were a lot of emotions running this game, but we kept them in check,” coach Ted Nolan told the team’s official Web site. “Every game is like a playoff game. We need to play really determined hockey and tonight we did.”
It was the second game back in action for New York goalie Rick DiPietro after he missed nearly all of the past three games with a head injury. DiPietro, third in the East with a .919 save percentage, stopped 35 shots Thursday after making 36 saves on Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
The Islanders allowed a total of 18 goals in the previous three games. DiPietro has been in net for 31 of the team’s 35 wins this season.
“I believe we have confidence in our game with Ricky in there,” Nolan said. “He was one of the big reasons we won.”
DiPietro and the Islanders are matching up against a Philadelphia team that could have some key players returning as well.
According to the team’s official Web site, leading scorer Simon Gagne could be in the lineup after missing the last six games with a hip flexor strain. Gagne participated in practice Thursday along with Scottie Upshall, who has been sidelined since March 15 with a shoulder injury.
“Right now I feel pretty good,” Gagne said. “I think Saturday is perfect timing.”
While Gagne and Upshall may return, the Flyers lost Todd Fedoruk indefinitely after the forward was knocked unconscious by a punch to the face in Philadelphia’s 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Fedoruk was removed from the ice on a stretcher just 21 seconds into the game, and he isn’t sure he can play again this season.
“I really don’t know yet,” he said Thursday after staying overnight for observation in a New York hospital. “I still have to do some tests.”
The Flyers were shut out for the fifth time this season and allowed two power-play goals, the first they’ve allowed since March 4. Philadelphia had killed all their 32 of their opponents’ power plays over the previous eight games, but went just 3-5 in that stretch.
The Islanders are 4-2-0 against the Flyers this season, including wins in each of the last three meetings. They haven’t won four straight in the series since 1998.