Tea time. - Bruce Bennett
The two cellar-dwellers in the Atlantic Division meet in an afternoon fight to get back in playoff discussions.
After playing the New Jersey Devils four times, and the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers twice each, the Islanders finally meet the struggling Philadelphia Flyers to complete their first cycle through the Atlantic Division in 2013.
They enter today with the same number of standings points, though the Flyers have played two more games. Fourth place in this division can matter.
In several seasons the Atlantic has sent four teams to the playoffs -- including the last year the Flyers missed, when the Isles made it the year the Flyers fired Ken Hitchcock and Bobby Clarke resigned. That's not to say there is a Patrick Division-era guarantee that fourth place in this division gets you into the playoffs; given these two teams' starts, that Devils-route-to-the-finals seat is already in jeopardy.
But if you have any hope of doing it, you best make sure you put at least one Atlantic team behind you.
You know what ails the Flyers.
They were already without Chris Pronger most of last year and he's done for, but the Flyers also lost Matt Carle to free agency, Andrej Meszaros has been out hurt, the Flyers sent James van Riemsdyk (he has 8 goals) to the Leafs for the neutron star remnants of Luke Schenn Hype, and yada yada yada their lineup now features Bruno Gervais.
They've had similar trouble as the Islanders winning the scoreboard at 5-on-5, but with weaker special teams than the Islanders you see where they've found trouble.
Expect the same Isles lineup that beat New Jersey 5-1.
If the Islanders special teams continue their crazy first quarter, and/or if John Tavares continues to be John Tavares, the Isles have a chance to pull back to NHL quasi-.500 here. If not, the two previous wins over Atlantic rivals will be forgotten and the sky shall resume its descent.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread. And don't forget, this is a bank holiday afternoon game. (Do banks still have bank holidays? I keep all my Frans Bucks under my mattress.)