Islanders Gameday: Phabulous Flyers pause on the way to Fenway

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Philadelphia Flyers (17-18-2, 5th/Atl) at New York Islanders (15-17-7, 4th/Atl)
5:05 EST | Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum | MSG+2, radio
Witt-targeting bad SUV drivers: Broad Street Hockey

Whether good (last year), bad (this year) or indifferent (much of this year), the Flyers just have the Islanders' number in recent years: The Isles are 1-12-3 the last three seasons, and that hasn't changed with Martin Biron (who starts tonight) now on our side. But Kyle Okposo scored his first goal in 19 games last night, so I'm going to claim slump-busting is in the air. Besides, I mean, we're talking ELEVENTH PLACE in the conference is on the line here.

Despite taking the shootout bonus point last night against the Hurricanes, the Flyers blew a third-period 3-0 lead to let it even get that far, so you know Peter Laviolette will give the old "that'll teach you to play 60 minutes" speech. The Flyers ran ex-Cane Michael Leighton out there for that one, so expect Brian Boucher to be back in. And because it's Flyers vs. Islanders, expect Good Boucher to be the version we see. Edit: Boucher still has a hurt finger; Leighton is in. No more egg nog for me.

The now broken-record topic of special teams comes to mind for this one, particularly with the Flyers' 9th-ranked PP against the Isles' 29th-ranked PK. Last night's Isles powerplays: Not good. But the PK was better. With Blake Comeau's Okposo-created tally last night, the Isles now have four shorthanded goals, while the Flyers have allowed six. Of course, the only shortie in the previous two Isles-Flyers meetings this season was by Mike Richards.

The best way to prevent powerplay goals against may be to not take penalties, and that's easier to do when a fool like Sean Avery is on the other side, occupying the refs. Say ... will Carcillo be in the lineup?

Happy Thought of the Day

John Tortorella, on facing the Islanders' style last night:

"When you play them it's not going to be a pretty game. You end up having to play that style, which isn't easy. I thought we fought through it. We'll take the point and try and find some good stuff out of it."

It's funny, when you read that quote, it sounds like a description of playing the Devils or any purveyor of trapist hockey ca. 1995-2004. Pretty sure that's not what he had in mind, though. If he's referring to playing a team that is supposed to be up-tempo for 60 minutes, focused on taking away your time and space with the puck, then cheers to Scott Gordon and cheers to that kind of hockey -- which is steadily becoming the norm these days, particularly among the newer coaches.

Passive/trapping hockey still has its in-game situational purpose, of course. But the longer the league watches obstruction like a hawk, the less effective a 100% dedication to passivity will be as a way to choke the life out of games and the joy out of watching the sport.

Streaks and Schedules

Both the Islanders and Flyers take uncommon two-game winning "streaks" into this one. The Flyers have this one tonight, a Wednesday at the Garden, and then the Winter Classic at Fenway on the docket. The Isles have struggling Columbus at home Tuesday and finish out the calendar year in Ottawa on New Year's Eve.

A decent December is still salvageable. But that requires breaking the Flyers' hold on them.

Prediction: Okposo continues where he left off last night.

Consider this your game thread.

*  *  *

WJC Note: I watched some of those World Junior Championship games yesterday. [Update: TMC is tracking Isles' WJC stats here.] Congrats to Matt Donovan for his powerplay goal in the U.S. win over Slovakia, and Kiril Petrov for a shorthanded goal and two assists against ... Austria. Fellow Islanders prospect Travis Hamonic scored for Canada, but really those Canada-Latvia matchups are jokes. I'll try to tell myself it's good for the Latvias to face world-class competition -- the way basketball countries learned from facing the original "Dream Team." But it's hard to take games like that -- and the goals that happen -- seriously, no matter how loudly Pierre McGuire touts them. On that note, the U.S. faces Switzerland today at 2 p.m. EST.

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