Last time we saw the Flyers, the pre-game narrative jargon was "battle level" vs. "heart." Today it's big game this, big game that:
Laviolette, on starting Steve Mason in goal for Ilya Bryzgalov, who has all 17 Flyers wins this season, in a big game: "Well, they're all big. Last game was big, and if we're successful tonight, which we plan on, then the next one is big. Steve was brought here to be part of a goaltending duo. We didn't want to change too much up with us being on a winning streak, and we wanted to make sure he was ready. It is a big game. I can't think of one game down the stretch that isn't big."
Like the last gasps of a dying patient, the Flyers have shown a little bit of life since that previous meeting, an Isles shootout win over the Flyers.
Now they have Steve Mason, who is nothing if not big. He's 6'4". So there. Also, he's definitely someone with a proven ability to wear goaltending equipment during NHL games. And he's not Michael Leighton, which is probably something. Flyers fans are not enthused.
Islanders (19-16-3, t-7th/E) vs. Flyers (17-18-3, 12th/E)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+ | NHL - WRHU
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Starting in Goal, Mr. Deja Vu: Broad Street Hockey
Backhanded ridicule and hockey cliche-mocking aside, this is ... ahem ... a ... well, yeah, it's a big game. (Doh!)
The Islanders have the chance to truly bury a division rival that has tormented them since the last time the Islanders were in the postseason and the Flyers were left to look at baseball schedules in April.
In this shortened season, however, that only means that the Flyers are five points back with a game in hand. If they handle their two remaining games against the Isles right, they could ruin the Islanders' month and at least theoretically salvage their own.
As Wade Dubielewicz has shown us, anything is possible.
- Evgeni Nabokov gets the start. You knew that already. Mason really is in at the other end. And lest we have too much fun with Mason, we must remember Nabokov, though he's been better lately during this 5-1-1 run (6-1-1 for the team), still sports a .906 save percentage.
- Matt Carkner enters for Radek Martinek because Flyers: "It's good. It's about taking pride in winning those one-on-one battles, keeping the puck out of the net and keeping them away from your net. They like to get dirty, they like to get in the goaltender's face."
- After the morning skate [audio], Jack Capuano wasn't sure on the forwards, and wasn't going to discuss it when asked if it was between Jesse Joensuu and Anders Lee. He praised Joensuu enough that it's hard to imagine him not staying in the lineup tonight though.
- Danny Briere is still out for the Flyers.
- Like the Isles, the Flyers haven't played since Saturday, when everything fell apart in a a seven-minute span in Winnipeg.
So here we are. The Islanders were embarrassed at home by the Flyers in the first meeting, got some semblance of revenge in squeaking out a shootout win in the second, and now have two more meetings to either deliciously finish the Flyers off or let them, backs against the wall, give them one last torment. No matter who wins tonight, there will be fury on both sides.
This is fun. This is as it should be. This has been a long time coming.
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