While the New York Islanders are spending time near the top of the East Division, the Philadelphia Flyers are struggling to stay in the mix for the final playoff spot.
Two teams trending in significantly opposite directions will meet Thursday night when the surging Islanders host the slumping Flyers.
Coming off their first run to the Eastern Conference finals since 1993, the Islanders are tied with the Washington Capitals with 54 points, with identical records. The Islanders are in contention for the division title by being virtually unbeatable in their last season at Nassau Coliseum before moving to a new building near the Queens border for next season.
New York is 16-1-2 at home, creating the modern version of Fort Neverlose, the nickname applied to the building when the Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983. The Islanders also are 22-6-2 in their past 28 games since an early season five-game skid from Jan. 24-31.
The Islanders have followed back-to-back road losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 27 and 29 with three straight wins. They have 12 goals over the past three games and also posted their second 1-0 win of the season Tuesday against the Capitals.
Brock Nelson scored his 14th goal in the third period while Semyon Varlamov 29 saves.
"We just wanted to stick with it, elevate our game and pick up the pace a little more in the third," Nelson said. "I thought we did that. We had quite a few good looks. We weren't able to capitalize, but we found a way going into the third to win a hockey game, which is huge."
Capped by consecutive 3-0 road wins over the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers raced to an 11-4-3 start through Feb. 28. Those wins put Philadelphia three points out of first place, but since then the Flyers have faded further away from the division lead and are fighting to get the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Flyers are 7-11-2 in their past 20 games, with three losses coming against the Islanders. The slide has put the Flyers into sixth spot in the East due to losing a tiebreaker with the New York Rangers, and they are five points behind the Boston Bruins, who are 6-0-1 against Philadelphia.
Philadelphia's latest loss is a 4-2 home defeat against the Bruins on Tuesday. The Flyers trailed 2-0 after the first period, tied the score in the opening 4:03 of the second on goals from Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere, but allowed the tiebreaking tally in the third period while on a power play.
"We knew what was at stake going into this game," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I thought our guys played with urgency, I thought we played the right way. We checked when it was time to check, we didn't give them a lot of looks. We got some great looks; we weren't able to finish, and they were able to finish. That was the difference in tonight's game."
Philadelphia lost despite recording 25 shots on goal in the second period.
In the Flyers' last meeting with the Islanders on Saturday, Claude Giroux scored twice in the third period before Philadelphia failed to score in the shootout in a 3-2 loss to the host Islanders.
The season series is 3-3.
--Field Level Media