The last time Jake Voracek and the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk met, they sounded like Donald Trump and George Conway going at each other on Twitter.
The Flyers and Islanders will have a rematch Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center, but there are no guarantees Voracek and Boychuk will resume their dislike for one another.
Since he was injured by a Voracek hit to his head on March 9, Boychuk has missed six straight games – five as a healthy scratch.
In that game in Uniondale, Boychuk absorbed a reverse hit from Voracek and went down hard. After getting up woozily and being helped off the ice, the 6-foot-2, 227-pound defenseman pointed at Voracek, who was sitting in the penalty box, and appeared to proclaim: “I’m going to get you.”
After that 5-2 Flyers win, Voracek mocked Boychuk. “He’s pointing at me like it’s WrestleMania or something,” he said. “Come on. It’s a hockey game. This is a guy who was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year at the end of the game, and he’s going to do that. Give me a break.”
Voracek was suspended for two games because of the hit.
Boychuk, 35, is minus-three in each of the last two games against the Flyers, who won those matchups, 4-1 and 5-2, respectively.
If Boychuk returns to the lineup Saturday, Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon doesn’t want Voracek or any of his teammates to makie the defenseman their focus.
“There’s more at stake than the hit for both teams,” Gordon said. “… I think there was an element of [Voracek] trying to protect himself as a guy was coming in hard on him. The contact was the end result, but I don’t think Jake had evil intentions on that play, and with what’s at stake for both teams, I’d be very surprised if anything will come of it.”
Saturday’s game is critical to both teams, especially the Flyers, whose playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. The Flyers are five points out of the last playoff spot (six points if the tie-breaker has to be used) with eight games left.
The Islanders, who have been shut out and beaten by a combined 9-0 in their last two games, are in second place in the Metropolitan, but are just four points ahead of Carolina, the top wild-card team.
“You look at the last six periods, we’ve been badly outplayed,” said Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, who has taken Boychuk’s place in the lineup, after Thursday’s 4-0 loss in Montreal. “I think we’ve got to find a little more juice.”
The Flyers did not have much “juice” in the first period of their last home game, a devastating 3-1 defeat Tuesday to Montreal, the team that holds the last wild-card spot. The Flyers rebounded Thursday and won in Chicago, 3-1, as Carter Hart made 40 saves.
“He’s won a lot of games for us by himself,” said Sean Couturier after icing the win with an empty-net goal, his 31st tally, which matched his career high. “You look at good teams, they all have that goalie who can steal a game here and there and make it hard on opponents, even when you’re struggling. [Thursday] was a great example of that.”