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Islanders Gameday: A chance to spoil the Habs

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Well, this has been a funny series. Back on Nov. 1, when the Canadiens were at their centennial-destiny hottest, the slumping Islanders totally outplayed them, only to have Yann Danis (the old version, the one Scott Gordon played tough love with) give up a three-goal, third-period lead.

Then on Nov. 24, the Habs outplayed the Islanders -- but the game went to extra time thanks to Ryan O'Byrne's own goal, and Islanders took the shootout bonus point.

Three weeks ago, it was Kyle Okposo's coming out party, as he netted the OT winner to shock a Habs club that had been reeling since the All-Star break.

Tonight, in the final game of this season's series, the islanders have the chance to play a meaningful spoiler role. If they do it, it will have to pull it off without their two best players: Okposo (groin) as well as team MVP Mark Streit. Danis will almost certainly get another chance to defeat his original NHL club.

But with 28th place or worse now assured (and really, 30th seems a lock, even with lottery foe Colorado losing Ryan Smyth for the season), I hope the Isles can do it. I'm openly rooting for the Panthers to make the playoffs -- no fanbase deserves to be without postseason play for a decade, a factor that should never be excluded from any smugly jingoist discussion of expansion success -- and they'll likely need the Habs to falter if they're going to get there. (A Rangers collapse, of course, is even more desirable.)

Count me as officially pulling for Whale and the gang at Litter Box Cats, where you can see the playoff bubble situation as it relates to tonight's games. Also count me excited to see Sean Bentivoglio get his call-up tonight after a hat trick down in AHL Bridgeport.

A Wee Bit of Linkage

Come back later for the live game thread. Game time is 7 p.m. EDT.