PHILADELPHIA - Must-win on Saturday night? You bet.
It’s come to this for the Islanders, playing their 25th game of the season against the Flyers. They have lost six straight on the road, are 2-7-0 in the last nine and come into play tonight in last in the Metro Division -- they are four points out of third, but still.
Nearly everyone around them is headed upwards, most of all Saturday’s opponent -- the Flyers are 5-0-1 in their last six after a dismal start that included the firing of Peter Laviolette.
And the Isles, as close as they’ve been on several occasions over the last few weeks, are not coming away with loser points when they’re playing poorly and not winning games they need to. They’ve lost two games with goals inside of two minutes to play in the last four, the penalty killing is a 50-50 proposition and now the power play disappeared at key times on Friday in Pittsburgh.
A loss on Saturday drops the Isles to five games under .500. To illustrate how problematic that is, the last time they were five games under was Jan. 16, 2012 -- they were never more than three games under during last season, which helped them regroup for the second-half run.
Also add in the new playoff format, with more teams to leapfrog, and the 82-game season chock full of three-point games... Well, let’s just say the Isles at the very least need a point on Saturday and preferably two.
A few Isles gutted it out on Friday -- Andrew MacDonald blocked a shot early with his right hand (his left was the one that was broken by another Penguins shot last May), iced it for nearly two full periods and came back for the third. He said he’d be fine.
Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo also hobbled off after blocking shots but returned. Frans Nielsen did not return after a low-back cross check by Craig Adams in the final minute, so we will see what Jack Capuano has to say about the lineup later on Saturday.
Kevin Poulin, who was unreal at times against the Penguins, will almost certainly get the start on Saturday here, opposed by Steve Mason.