Islanders-Flyers Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Islanders have a shot at the winningest road trip in franchise history. That opportunity comes in a city where they rarely win and against an opponent from a division which has been a burden - their own.

No team has more losses in divisional games than the Islanders, and seven of their next nine opponents are fellow Metropolitan clubs. That stretch begins with a home-and-home set against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night with New York going for its ninth win in 10 road games.

This stunning run away from home - the Islanders lost 13 of their first 17 road games - includes a 4-0-1 mark on a trek that ends Saturday. The most points they've ever recorded on a road trip is nine, with four wins and one tie on five-game swings in 1978 and 1983.

However, they have only three wins - one in regulation - in their last 19 visits to Philadelphia. The Flyers are 32-4-2 in the series since the start of the 2007-08 season.

"We're going into a tough building and it's a real good test for our hockey club," coach Jack Capuano said.

The Islanders (19-23-7) lost both meetings this season by 5-2 scores, part of their 3-10-3 division record. They've lost 11 of 12 against Metropolitan foes.

After this home-and-home set ends Monday in Long Island, three of their next seven games are against the New York Rangers. They'll also play Pittsburgh and Washington before the Olympic break.

"We gotta start winning some games in our division, so this is our opportunity now and we're playing much better hockey," captain John Tavares said. "Looking forward to going in there (to Philadelphia), and they're playing well. Always a tough test."

The Flyers (24-19-5) had won 10 straight at home before losing the last two, including 4-3 in a shootout to Nashville on Thursday. They've averaged 3.75 goals in those 12 home games.

"They score a lot of goals," Capuano said. "Their four lines are as good as anybody in this league."

Philadelphia, though, lost for the third time in four games overall Thursday despite a goal and two assists from Wayne Simmonds. He has 11 goals and nine assists in the last 15 games.

While Simmonds is clearly the hottest Flyer, everyone on New York's top line has been rolling. Tavares has eight goals and 11 assists in his past 11 games. Thomas Vanek has 19 points in his last 14 after scoring for the second straight game in Thursday's 2-1 shootout win over Tampa Bay. Kyle Okposo has nine goals and six assists in the last 11 road games.

"Obviously they got a ton of confidence on the road right now and they're playing well as a team," Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn said. "We know how good that Tavares line is, they're extremely successful right now, too."

New York's Kevin Poulin also has been successful since starter Evgeni Nabokov got hurt, going 5-1-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average.

Philadelphia's Steve Mason has a 4.03 GAA in his last three starts and allowed shootout goals on the final three of Nashville's seven attempts. Mason, though, is 4-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA against the Islanders and won both matchups this season.

Vincent Lecavalier had his lone hat trick in the first one and assisted on Simmonds' goal in the last meeting Nov. 23, but he knows this Islanders team is much improved.

"They're playing great right now," Lecavalier said. "... They got some pretty good offensive guys, a lot of talent. We've gotta make sure we're ready to go."

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