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Islanders Gameday: These stakes are complicated

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Montreal Canadiens (39-32-8, 6th) at New York Islanders (33-35-10, 11th)
Nassau [
gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+2 [
change], RDS | radio
Demanding Francophone Stars Since 1909-ish: Eyes on the Prize | Inside/Out

With the Bruins' regulation point last night (they lost in OT to the President's Trophy winners), the Islanders are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Which -- depending on your own personal Fan's Hierarchy of Needs* -- frees you to root for willfully accept lottery-laxative losses without guilt. If that's your thing.

* Maslow was an Islanders fan. It's true! You can look it up.**
**Actually, don't look it up. It's technically inaccurate, as he died in 1970. But the Brooklyn native's dying wish*** was that the NHL expand to compensate for that disaster on Broadway.
***Also not actually true. Sorry. Although you must admit it would make sense, him being smart and all.

I don't really pass judgment on the matter of what you want out of these final games. Personally, I take what fate brings, fearing if I root too hard for Islanders losses to secure a top prospect, chronic injuries will inevitably befall him. (That's silly, I know: That NEVER happens!)

At this point you know what makes me happy? Goals by the kids, and seeing the Islanders in their rightful retro blues. Seriously, even after two seasons I cannot get enough of those, and I hate that it took a 15-year uniform saga to get a version of them back.

But for the Habs, this game very much means something. They haven't clinched a playoff spot yet, and with a win they can possibly clinch and firm up their tenuous hold on the sixth seed, which might mean a first-round date with their division rival Sabres. The Habs are 2-3-1 against Buffalo, and 1-2-1 and 1-3-0 against New Jersey and Pittsburgh, respectively. Barring descent, those are their three post-season candidates.

With two early wins in October and a sound 3-0 thumping in December, the Canadiens are also going for a season sweep. Of course, the last Adams Division team that came to Long Island looking for a sweep left town licking its wounds, with its enforcer bleeding out of his cranium.

But the Habs are pretty healthy and riding a good goalie, finally. Jaroslav Halak is on fire -- like he has been much of the season, really -- and the only major Habs injuries are Paul Mara and Glen Metropolit. Must be nice.

Playoff Implications

Here are the scenarios in which the Canadiens can clinch tonight. Basically, win or OTL and hope for Flyers-Rangers futility, the latter of which is always a good time.

Lottery Implications

Columbus' OT loss last night put them two points up on the Isles in 24th, but with two more games played. All the rest of the characters play tonight, and the Islanders sit tied with Carolina at 76 points, and two points up on both Tampa Bay and Florida. Toronto is four points behind, with only three games left. Edmonton is Edmonton.

I fully expect a Toronto columnist any day now to suggest that Taylor Hall should pull a Lindros/Elway/Manning on Edmonton, because it's better for the game if he plays in Toronto.

Things to Root For

No matter what happens, entering tonight:

  • John Tavares is three away from 25 goals, and one point away from 50.
  • Matt Moulson is three away from 30 goals (and a bigger payday, I fear), and five points from 50.
  • Kyle Okposo is three away from 20 goals, and three points from 50.
  • The Islanders defense is worth watching, for the sheer inexperienced mystery of it all.
  • Martin Biron -- he gets the start -- is undefeated in his last eight starts.
  • Frans Nielsen is awesome.

Tavares, by the way, is plus-8 since the Olympic break (minus-10 on the season), although six of those pluses came in the last two blowouts of Ottawa and Philadelphia. I'll take it.

Prediction: Halak stands on his head, this becomes a three-point game, we miss Rob Schremp.