Islanders head coach Patrick Roy talks to the media after...

Islanders head coach Patrick Roy talks to the media after the 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in an NHL hockey game at UBS Arena on Sunday, March 24, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

PHILADELPHIA — Will they? Won’t they?

The real question is, can they?

Can the Islanders put forth a consistent enough effort to push for a playoff spot in their final nine games?

There have been glimpses on this three-game road trip — which will conclude with an absolute must-win-in-regulation match against the Flyers on Monday night at Wells Fargo Center — b

ut no convincing evidence in the 1-1-0 start.

And a trip-ending regulation loss seemingly would put an unofficial end to the season.

The Islanders (31-27-15) woke up on Sunday — the trip’s only day without a game or practice — five points behind the Flyers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot with two games in hand. It’s the teams’ final meeting.

The Islanders, whose skid reached 2-7-1 with Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to the Lightning that guaranteed they will finish with more combined defeats than victories, also are five points behind the Capitals for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Their four-game season series concluded in December.

“I always want better,” coach Patrick Roy said. “We’re never satisfied. We want to make sure we continue to grow and perform to a high level. We know where we are and we know we need to win games. Offensively, maybe we need to be a little bit better if we want to score more goals.”

The Florida swing of this trip was a complete split decision: One regulation win (3-2 over the Panthers on Thursday), one regulation loss, two strong periods, two periods in which the opponent had the better of play and two OK periods.

The Islanders struggled with puck possession and puck management for stretches in both games. The lines were tinkered with and then switched again.

It was a real microcosm of a season that has never gained any real traction.

“I thought the second two periods were some good hockey,” Kyle Palmieri said after scoring the Islanders’ lone goal against the Lightning. “I think we had a lot of good opportunities to get one. We weren’t able to solve [Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy]. It could have been four or five to one after the first. But we had an opportunity to get back in the game.”

The only constant against the Panthers and Lightning was goalie Semyon Varlamov. He started back-to-back games for only the second time this season and absolutely has earned the right to be in the net against the Flyers, with Ilya Sorokin playing against lottery-bound Chicago on Tuesday night at UBS Arena.

Varlamov (9-8-4, 2.83 goals-against average, .912 save percentage) made 26 saves against the Panthers and 36 against the Lightning, including 19 in the first period.

“I hope Varly feels good about himself,” said Roy, a Hall of Fame goalie. “If I was in his position, I would feel good about myself. I would go out there and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll be [ticked] that we lost.’ But he knows he played a strong game and he gave us a chance.”

After Monday, the Islanders will play five of their last eight at home. But that likely won’t matter if they can’t beat the Flyers.

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