A recent surge had the New York Islanders thinking about the playoffs, but the last week has proven the young team still has plenty more growing pains to endure.
A matchup with the Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia Flyers only figures to reinforce that.
The slumping Islanders will try to end a 13-game losing streak to the Flyers when the teams meet Saturday afternoon at the Wachovia Center.
After finishing with the league’s worst record last season, the Islanders seemed like a longshot for a playoff berth after making minimal offseason changes. New York, however, put together a recent 10-3-1 run to jump into eighth place in the Eastern Conference, succeeding despite a roster that relied heavily on young players.
The Islanders (23-23-8) were cooled with a 4-2 loss to New Jersey last Saturday and were overwhelmed 7-2 by red-hot Washington three nights later. They opened a four-game road trip Thursday night with a 4-1 loss to last-place Carolina, their fourth defeat in five games.
New York has allowed 22 goals in that five-game stretch after giving up 10 in the previous five.
“You give a team, no matter where they are in the standings, the type of chances we gave them, you’re not going to win games,” said Matt Moulson(notes), who scored his team-leading 20th goal Thursday. “They’re a team that’s hot. We knew that and we came out pretty sluggish.”
If recent history is any indication, the Islanders will leave Philadelphia (26-23-3) with their first four-game losing streak since a season-opening 0-3-3 skid. Since a 4-3 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 12, 2008, New York has been outscored 46-22 during 13 straight losses to the Flyers - the NHL’s longest active win streak by one team over another.
Second-year Islanders coach Scott Gordon is 0-7-2 against the Flyers, including 0-3-0 this season.
With Rick DiPietro(notes) losing Thursday, Dwayne Roloson(notes) figures to be in net for New York. Roloson has followed a 7-0-1 stretch by losing two of his last three starts, posting a 4.15 goals-against average.
Philadelphia lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods Thursday night, allowing three unanswered goals in a 4-3 defeat to visiting Atlanta.
“We needed to play a better third period. We needed to play with more energy,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our desperation level needs to be higher for 60 minutes. It was sporadic.”
Although meetings between the Islanders and Flyers historically have been physical, these teams play vastly different styles.
Philadelphia entered Friday leading the league with 891 penalty minutes, including 53 majors to rank second. The Islanders, meanwhile, are near the bottom of the NHL with 581 penalty minutes and 23 majors.
With no fighting majors in the last 15 games, the Islanders agreed to terms with left wing Trevor Gillies on an NHL contract Thursday. Gillies, who had one goal and 123 penalty minutes in 18 games with Bridgeport of the AHL, played his only NHL game with Anaheim in 2005.