Here it is. I say this without an ounce of hyperbole, but the New York Islanders are facing their first must-win game of the 2015-16 season. The Isles welcome their division rival Philadelphia Flyers to the Barclays Center on Wednesday, in what is the most pivotal matchup of the young season for the Isles. Both teams are struggling as of late, with the Flyers going 3-4-3 in their last 10, slightly worse than the Isles 4-6 record in their last 10 contests. If you watched the last 2 Isles games against the Montreal Canadiens, you don’t have to be Don Cherry to realize they didn’t play very good hockey. The Isles have a strong chance to turn their fortunes around in the next week taking on Philadelphia, Florida, Tampa and Colorado before the December 2nd matchup against the Rangers in Brooklyn. But it must begin tonight. The Isles need 60 minutes of solid hockey against a reeling Flyers team who have gone long stretches without scoring this season.
Look for Jaroslav Halak to be in net after being pulled after the first period on Friday night and sitting out Sunday’s game, both against the Habs. Brock Nelson has been the hottest Isles forward lately, potting 5 goals in his last 5 games, despite being held scoreless on Sunday in Montreal. Nelson moved into a tie for second on the team with 8 goals, joining Frans Nielsen as the 2nd place tandem behind captain John Tavares’ 10. No other Islander has more than 4 goals so far this season. This will also be the first time the Isles are on national TV this season, with NBCSN carrying the game starting at 8:30. The Islanders will also be on NBCSN next Wednesday for the 8 PM “rivalry night” puck drop against the Rangers. But before the team can look that far ahead, they need to worry about playing a full 60 minutes against a mediocre Flyers team that is struggling to stay in the playoff hunt.