Flyers-Islanders preview: Both teams seek firmer footing

Bruins Islanders Hockey
The Islanders' Mathew Barzal (left) leads NHL rookies in scoring this season.

Islanders (20-16-4) at Flyers (16-15-8)

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Wells Fargo Center

BROADCAST & STREAMING: TV-NBCSP; radio-97.5 FM.

SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Twitter, @BroadStBull @samdonnellon

KEY PLAYERS: John Tavares, Anders Lee and Josh Bailey — the highest-scoring line in the NHL — combined for 57 points (23G, 34A) in December for the Islanders. Bailey (21) and Tavares (20) led the NHL in points in the month. Lee’s 11 goals led the NHL in December. The Isles’ Mathew Barzal, 20, leads all NHL rookies in points (36) and assists (23) this season. His 7-game point streak (3G,7A) from Nov.16-28 tied the longest by a rookie this season. His 23 assists are the most by an Islanders rookie since 2010-11. Bailey’s 11-game point streak (7G, 12A) was snapped in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Bruins. Ivan Provorov, who was X-rayed after blocking a shot on the inside of his left skate, practiced Wednesday and is expected to play. Intrigue surrounds the Flyers net tonight: Will Brian Elliott, who has started 14 games in a row, return to the nets after allowing four goals in 13 shots in Tuesday’s loss? Or will Michal Neuvirth, who was out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury since early December before replacing Elliott on Tuesday, get the start?

THINGS TO KNOW: The Islanders have dropped three straight, including two by lopsided scores. In addition to Tuesday’s 5-1 setback, they lost, 6-1, in Colorado on New Year’s Eve. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, and 8-12-1 on the road this season. The Isles (44 points, 40 games) and Flyers (40 points, 39 games) are among five teams within five points of the second wild-card spot, currently held by Carolina (44 points). The Flyers are in a 20-day stretch in which they play just six games (Dec. 24-Jan. 12). They are 1-2 so far.

HEAD TO HEAD: Including playoffs, the Flyers are 150-113-26 all-time against the Islanders, and 88-45-11 at home. The Flyers dropped back-to-back overtime games to the Isles in late November. They were 3-1-0 against them last season. The teams won’t meet again until the final week of the season.

COMING GAMES:

Saturday: 1 p.m., St. Louis

Sunday: 1 p.m., Buffalo

Jan. 13, 7 p.m., at New Jersey