Islanders center Casey Cizikas after scoring a goal against the...

Islanders center Casey Cizikas after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at UBS Arena on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Credit: AP/Jim McIsaac

PHILADELPHIA — It’s just a number.

Yet the chance to finally get back to NHL .500 (wins and losses, never mind the overtime or shootout defeats) for the first time in more than two months is meaningful for the Islanders in their uphill battle to get back into playoff contention.

"I’d say it’s the first step," Casey Cizikas said. "Standings are tough to look at. You can look at them one way and kind of be upset or you just take it game by game and I think that’s what we’re doing here. Each game is the most important game of the year to us right now. At the end of the season, if we keep playing the way we are, if we keep growing as a group then we’re going to like where we’re sitting."

The Islanders entered Tuesday night’s game at Wells Fargo Center to conclude a home-and-home series with a 12-13-6 record after Monday night’s 4-1 win over the Flyers at UBS Arena. The teams are playing three times in nine days.

That ended a 5-1-1 homestand for the Islanders, who open another seven-game homestand on Friday night against the Coyotes.

They haven’t been at NHL .500 since a 4-1 road loss to the Lightning on Nov. 15 dropped the Islanders to 5-5-2. That was in the midst of an eight-game regulation losing streak that bridged the end of their season-opening, 13-game road trip and the first four games at UBS Arena.

So, the last-place Islanders entered Tuesday’s play 16 points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but only three points behind the seventh-place Flyers, who have played seven more games. The Islanders will soon learn when they will make up nine postponed games.

For context, the Islanders and Flyers entered Tuesday’s contest as two of the 11 teams in the 32-team league that are under NHL .500. Monday’s loss left the Flyers, who have already changed coaches this season, in an 0-6-2 skid.

"I think it’s a number but, at the same time, this is a group that has a lot of pride," said coach Barry Trotz, who returned to the Islanders’ bench on Monday after missing two games while in COVID-19 protocol and a previous one while mourning the passing of his mother. "We had the tough start with all the COVID and basically with half our team out starting after our road trip and into the new arena. We dug ourselves a hole and it’s taken a while to dig ourselves out. We haven’t done it yet but we’re getting close.

"I think once you get to the .500 mark it allows you to look forward, ‘OK, we got back to even now, what do we do with the next 50-odd games?’ I’m all about collecting points. You’ve just got to keep collecting points. The reality is we’ve got to play good today. Not worry about two weeks from now."

Monday’s win improved the Islanders to 7-3-1 since Dec. 7.

They had scored at least three goals in six of their last seven games and held opponents to two or fewer goals in five straight games and eight of their last nine.

Ultimately, those types of numbers matter more than an arbitrary .500.

Still, the team is aware of that plateau.

"It’s definitely a starting point," Matt Martin said. "You can’t get over .500 until you get to .500. We know where we are in the standings but, at the same time, we’re trying not to pay attention to it too much because it can look a little more daunting than it necessarily is."

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