Flyers-Islanders Preview

A matchup with the New York Islanders could be exactly what the

Philadelphia Flyers need.

Philadelphia has dominated the series in recent years, going

28-3-1 since the start of the 2007-08 season. But the Flyers have

been anything but superior this season and have especially

struggled of late.

Meanwhile, the Islanders hope John Tavares can power them to a

third straight win Monday night when they host Philadelphia in the

opener of this season series.

The Flyers have won six straight and 13 of 14 at Nassau Coliseum

but are enduring major problems on the road. They’ve dropped three

of four thus far on a season-high six-game trip to fall to 2-8-0

away from home. No other team has more than five road losses.

Philadelphia’s production slips from 2.7 goals per game at home

to 2.2 on the road, but the more dramatic difference is on defense.

The Flyers (6-9-1) give up an average of 3.5 goals in road games

compared to 2.2 at home.

Morale seemed to hit a new low after a 4-1 loss to Montreal on

Saturday, with captain Claude Giroux putting his teammates on

notice.

“There’s no compete. We’re not winning battles,” said Giroux,

who has a minus-6 rating and 10 points through 16 games. He was

third in the NHL last season with 93 points.

“We’re just going through the motions. You know, we’re a young

team that can skate. We should be winning more battles than this.

It’s just frustrating to see. I know I have to be better, but a

team is 20 guys and you need everybody to show up.”

Among the other Flyers off to rough starts are Max Talbot, who

has no goals after scoring a career-high 19 last season. Defenseman

Braydon Coburn’s minus-9 rating is among the league’s worst. Sean

Couturier, who had 27 points as a rookie last season, has no goals

and two assists over the past eight games.

The Islanders (6-7-1) are tied with Philadelphia for last place

in the Atlantic Division, though things may be looking up. New York

managed just nine goals during a five-game losing streak before

matching that total in their last two contests and winning both,

including a 5-1 victory over New Jersey on Saturday.

Tavares had his fourth career hat trick as he scored for the

fifth consecutive game, totaling nine points in that span.

“I think any great player puts a lot of responsibility on

(themselves) because they want to lead (their) team,” coach Jack

Capuano said of Tavares. “To me, an elite player is someone you

watch night in and night out, and your coaches prepare for in your

pre-scout. You’re looking at 91 (Tavares).”

Tavares’ 11 goals – all in the past 10 games – trail only the 12

by Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek. His 20 points also rank among the league

leaders.

“When I get my opportunities, I want to contribute,” said

Tavares, scoring on 28.0 percent of his shots over the last five

games and 19.3 percent on the season. “And I know offensively,

that’s where I contribute the most. Just trying to, when I get my

chances, put the puck in.”