John Tavares scored a goal for the Islanders in the Flyers' 5-2 win on Nov. 23. (USA Today Images)
VOORHEES, N.J. -- It wasn’t long ago the New York Islanders were almost a team to overlook. Sure, they had some speed and some offensive weapons, but the Flyers hardly had to worry about them.
That’s definitely not the case anymore.
While the Islanders might be in eighth place in the Metropolitan Division, they arrive at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday having won eight of their last 10 games -- and eight of their last nine on the road.
“They’re playing great right now,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “We’re going to look at video for sure … of what they do. They got some pretty good offensive guys. A lot of talent. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go.”
The Islanders’ top line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Thomas Vanek will pose a challenge. Tavares, the Isles’ captain, is second in the NHL in points this season with 57, and has three points in his last three games.
“Obviously they have a ton of confidence on the road right now,” Luke Schenn said. “And they’re playing well as a team, and we know how good that Tavares line is, too. They’re extremely successful right now, too. This game, actual back-to-back games against the Islanders, it’s going to be a huge test for us.
“We have a few divisional opponents coming up, so you say it every week, but this is a big week for us coming up.”
Coincidentally, perhaps, the one big area the Flyers will need to exploit against the Islanders this weekend is their penalty kill. The Islanders’ PK is dead last in the NHL, at 75.2 percent. In many other ways, the two teams are actually quite evenly matched.
But the Flyers, of course, have one of the NHL’s worst power plays on home ice (see story).
After Saturday’s game in Philadelphia, the Flyers will travel to Uniondale, N.Y., to face the Islanders on their home turf for a Monday afternoon matinee.
For the Flyers, who are 2-0 against the Islanders this season, both games will be tough. This is a different Islanders team from the one they faced back on Nov. 23 and beat 5-2.
“I think they’re doing a very good job defensively and getting some timely goals by people,” coach Craig Berube said. “Good team. They’ve got some good players, some good skilled players. Goalie’s playing good.”