NEW YORK — For the last week, the New York Islanders received reminders of what could have been. But at least they won’t have to worry about watching another team celebrate clinching a playoff berth Tuesday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers in the penultimate home game of the season at Barclays Center.
The Islanders continued their late-season collapse Saturday, falling to the New Jersey Devils 4-3. The Flyers moved closer to securing a playoff berth Sunday when they posted their second straight win by beating the Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime.
The Flyers (40-25-14) could technically clinch no worse than an Eastern Conference wild-card berth Tuesday, though it would take a win over the Islanders and a loss by the Florida Panthers, whose game against the Nashville Predators starts half an hour after the Flyers face off against the Islanders.
The Panthers kept their faint playoff hopes alive Monday by beating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 to move within six points of the Flyers. Florida has four games left and Philadelphia has three games remaining.
“First goal on the list is to become a playoff team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’re not there yet, we haven’t completed that yet. We’re just working toward the next two points.”
Points have been in increasingly short supply the last several weeks for the Islanders (32-37-10), who have lost eight of 10 (2-8-0) and 16 of their last 19 (3-12-4) to fall into last place in the Metropolitan Division.
New York lost twice on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are headed for the playoffs as one of the top three seeds in the Atlantic Division, and the Devils, who are in the driver’s seat for the second wild card.
“It just stinks knowing we’re not playing past this weekend,” Islanders center and captain John Tavares told Newsday after practice Monday afternoon. “We’re just trying to focus on the positives as much as you can and it’s the last week, so we want to go and play hard and play with a lot of pride and get some good results.”
Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek is expected to start against the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak in a battle of teams with uncertain short- and long-term goaltending situations.
Mrazek has served as the closest thing the Flyers have had to a No. 1 goalie in the 25 games since Brian Elliott suffered a core muscle injury on Feb. 10.
Mrazek improved to 6-5-3 in that span with 36 saves Sunday. Elliott practiced Monday and is expected to play before the regular season ends this weekend so Philadelphia can get an idea if he can start in the playoffs.
Halak sat out the last two games, including Saturday, when he was scratched because of illness. He last started March 27 when he made 33 saves in the Islanders’ 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
While Halak has been the goalie of record in 32 of the Islanders’ 44 games since the Christmas break, he is a free agent at the end of the season and unlikely to return to New York, which is on pace to lead the NHL in goals allowed and has just one goalie, Thomas Greiss, under contract for next season.