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Islanders playoffs begin at home tonight ... in AHL

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Although they're left out of the NHL's playoff party, the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport turned in a very strong season and made the playoffs for the first time in three season -- despite constantly being raided this year by the parent club to replace 582 man-games of injuries.

Those playoffs begin tonight -- at Nassau Coliseum (due to arena conflicts), so literal "Islanders" will be able to watch some Baby Isles get a taste of playoff intensity against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton(icity) Penguins.

Three big-league reasons to care: Kyle Okposo, Jack Hillen and Jon Sim. (Okay, not so much on the third one.) Of course, including Peter Mannino (who will back up Nathan Lawson), the lineup should include eight others who saw time with the Islanders this season. But Okposo is the big one we hope takes the reins and has a big game. He's gotta stay in form for the World Championships, ya' know.

No TV, but Tom Liodice -- an NYI BlogBoxer who keeps an unwavering eye on the Sound Tigers at his Tiger Track site -- will be keeping a live blog. If he is even half as relentless as he was last week, you'll find a blow-by-blow picture of the game there.

Meanwhile, you can keep tabs on the coverage by the Connecticut Post's Mike Fornabaio, who is so thorough in his Sound Tigers coverage he deserves a gig at one of those New York papers that ignores the Islanders. For example, here is how the AHL standings would look without shootouts.

And of course, the comprehensive Chris Botta offers his own AHL preview augmented with quotes from both Fornabaio and Sound Tigers coach Jack Capuano -- GoGo Jr., if you will.