Islanders-Flyers Preview

The Associated Press

For much of the past five seasons, a date with the New York Islanders essentially meant an automatic two points for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Wins haven't come so easily for the Flyers recently - against the Islanders or anyone else.

Looking to recover from a poor February, the Flyers try to avoid a third home loss to the Islanders in the past six weeks Thursday night.

Philadelphia (34-21-7) won 24 of 26 games against New York from 2007-08 to the end of last season - including all 13 at the Wells Fargo Center - and added two more victories on Long Island to begin this season's series.

But the Islanders (26-28-9) stopped their lengthy skid on Broad Street with a 4-1 win Jan. 19 and came away with a 1-0 shootout victory Feb. 7, performances indicative of the Flyers' second-half inconsistency. Philadelphia totaled 10 goals in a pair of wins on its recent four-game road trip, but was shut out in the other two contests.

The Flyers fell behind San Jose just 1:22 into Tuesday's 1-0 loss - the eighth consecutive time they've allowed the first goal.

"It's tough when they score on the first shot," center Claude Giroux said. "We dug ourselves a hole, and it's playing catch-up again. We can't be doing that all season. It's going to kill us. We've got to find a way to get a better start."

The loss to the Sharks capped a 5-7-1 February which dropped the Flyers from the third-most points in the Eastern Conference - just three behind the East-leading New York Rangers - to sixth place, 11 back of the Rangers.

After starting 11-6-2 at home, Philadelphia has lost seven of 10 there - allowing at least five goals in four of those contests.

It shouldn't expect a high-scoring game against the Islanders, the East's lowest-scoring team at 2.27 goals per game after netting two or fewer in nine of their last 12.

New York blew a two-goal lead in the final four minutes Tuesday night in Washington, falling 3-2 in overtime.

A regulation win would have pulled the Islanders within five points of Winnipeg for the East's eighth playoff spot. Instead, the Jets were jumped by the Capitals, who are now eight clear of New York.

"It's unacceptable to give up a two-goal lead that late," winger Josh Bailey told the league's official website. "Breakdowns are a part of the game, but you certainly don't expect the outcome to be like that when you are up two goals."

Bailey had a goal Tuesday but John Tavares was held off the scoresheet, a likely indication the Islanders are in trouble. They're 20-12-3 when Tavares records a point and 6-16-6 when he doesn't.

Tavares has two goals and four assists in his last five versus Philadelphia after a five-game drought without a point. Matt Moulson, who leads New York with 27 goals, has only scored two in his last 16 games against the Flyers.

Scott Hartnell leads Philadelphia with 30, and his finding the back of the net has been critical for Peter Laviolette's team. The Flyers are 18-3-3 when Hartnell scores a goal, which he's done in his team's last three wins against the Islanders while going pointless in the two recent defeats.

Giroux, who is third in the league with 72 points, has been held to two assists against New York this season and is a minus-6.

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