(Sports Network) – Despite losing their last five games, along with sole possession of first place in the division, the Philadelphia Flyers can clinch the Atlantic crown when they host the New York Islanders tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers enter today tied with Pittsburgh for the division lead with just one game left for both teams. As a result of holding the tiebreaker with more non-shootout wins, Philadelphia can clinch the title over the idle Penguins with a win tonight. However, if the Flyers lose to the Isles, then Pittsburgh will get a shot to win the division when it visits Atlanta on Sunday.
One thing is certain in the Atlantic Division race and that is the second- place team will hold the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
However, Philadelphia could secure the second seed in the East with a victory tonight. Boston is three points in back of the Flyers and has two games remaining, including today’s test against Ottawa. Philly can no longer claim the East’s top seed, as Washington is three points ahead of the Flyers.
The Flyers have an ideal opponent to pick up an important win against today, as they have beaten the Islanders all five times this season and have taken 20 of the last 21 meetings overall. New York has also dropped 12 straight in Philadelphia and last won a road game against the Flyers on April 7, 2007.
Philadelphia lost a 4-3 overtime decision Friday night in Buffalo to fall to 0-3-2 over its five-game skid. To make matters worse for the Flyers, Pittsburgh also posted a shootout win Friday over the Islanders to forge the tie atop the division.
The Flyers held a 3-2 lead against Buffalo before Nathan Gerbe tied the contest with his second goal of the game at 10:03 of the third. Thomas Vanek would win it for the Sabres just 1:16 into the extra session.
“You have to have a short memory,” said Flyers captain Mike Richards. “We did a lot of good things tonight. Obviously, we’re disappointed we didn’t get the win, but we put ourselves in a position to win one game at home and win the division.”
Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Kris Versteeg scored for the Flyers, who have lost five in a row for the first time since an 0-4-1 stretch from March 20-27 of last season. Philadelphia hasn’t dropped six in a row since it went 0-3-3 to begin the 2008-09 campaign.
Sergei Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 29 shots in Friday’s loss, but the rookie is expected to get the call tonight. Earlier this week, Bobrovsky was named the starter for Philadelphia’s opening playoff series.
Bobrovsky has won all five games against the Islanders this year while posting a 1.58 goals-against average in those tilts.
On the injury front, forward Blair Betts (lower body) and defenseman Nick Boynton (neck) are questionable for tonight.
The Islanders, who will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight spring, came up short in the spoiler role last night, losing a shootout decision against visiting Pittsburgh. It was the third straight loss and sixth defeat in seven games for New York.
Chris Kunitz scored the lone goal in the third round of the shootout to lift the Penguins to a 4-3 win in the season finale at Nassau Coliseum. After the first five shooters were unable to turn on the red light, Kunitz snapped a wrister past New York goaltender Al Montoya for the win.
Blake Comeau had two goals for New York, which tied the game on Travis Hamonic’s marker with 35 seconds left in regulation. Montoya stopped 35 shots.
New York has a dismal 13-20-7 road record this season, while the Flyers are 21-12-7 on home ice.