Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia will try to create a bit of breathing room atop the standings and extend a nine-game point streak this evening versus Boston, which will look to rebound from a tough-luck setback and clinch a playoff spot at Wells Fargo Center
Coming off a string of four straight shootout appearances, losing two straight and three of four, the Flyers made sure they didn't go past 60 minutes last night, downing the New York Islanders, 4-1, behind James van Riemsdyk's first career hat trick.
The second overall pick of the 2007 draft accomplished the feat in his 145th game to up his season goal total to 19. Despite the road win, the Nassau Coliseum ice was still littered with hats following his third goal in the third period.
"It was definitely pretty cool," van Riemsdyk said of the outpouring of support from Philadelphia fans. "It shows that the Flyers fans care enough to show their support for us [on the road]. Every goal there were a lot of fans who cheered and it makes me proud to wear the jersey every night."
Jeff Carter added a goal and an assist and Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for the Flyers, who are 5-0-4 in their last nine games and reached 100 points for the first time since 2005-06. That has Philadelphia, which matched a club record with its 24th road win of the season, two points ahead of Washington for the East's top seed and four ahead of Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Flyers will use one of their two games in hand over the Capitals tonight, while the Penguins, who have played one more game than Philly, battles the Panthers today. Philadelphia visits Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but will first try to snap a three-game slide at home, with each loss coming after regulation.
Philadelphia notched its 18th 100-point season in club history, matching Boston for the most in league history. The Bruins come into this game with 92 points and eight games to play.
Boston was also in action yesterday, but was defeated by the New York Rangers, 1-0. New York's Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves for NHL-leading 11th shutout, while Tuukka Rask made 22 saves in the setback, Boston's seventh in 10 games (3-4-3).
The Bruins, though, still lead the Northeast Division by five points over the Canadiens with two games in hand. They can officially punch their ticket to the postseason tonight with a victory.
Boston was coming off a 7-0 rout of Montreal and couldn't net the game-tying goal on Saturday despite outshooting New York, 12-1, in the third period.
"The other team played a solid game and we were a little light on our sticks in the first 40 minutes," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "That put us in a bad situation and the third period was too little, too late."
The Bruins have won four of their last five versus the Flyers, including two of three this season, as well as two straight and six of their last seven in Philadelphia.
Tim Thomas posted a 41-save shutout at Philadelphia back on Dec. 1 and could get the start tonight. He is a solid 9-2-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average versus the Flyers.
Bobrovsky lost to Thomas in that outing, his only career start against Boston.