It's another day, just another "biggest" game for the Islanders. But this afternoon's tilt -- yes, it's a 3 p.m. EDT start -- poses a more interesting wrinkle in that their opponent really needs this one for their playoff push, and the road atmosphere should be electric inside Winnipeg's MST3K Centre.
Like the Islanders, the Jets just need to win enough of their four remaining games to get in, but it would be a boost to Winnipeg's hopes if they could take two regulation points from a team just three points above them. (And Winnipeg, should they catch the Isles, would hold the regulation/OT win tiebreaker.) Of course, they probably don't care which New York team they catch -- the Rangers are just two points ahead of them going into today.
On the other side, if the Isles could take two regulation points, it would all but bury the Jets as a threat to take their spot. (Forgive me, Dubie, for I have projected.)
With the travel from Toronto and the early afternoon start today, there's no info yet coming from the team on any lineup changes. (I wouldn't expect any though, other than the possible continued rotation of Matt Carkner and Radek Martinek, and I'd imagine Eric Boulton returns to the press box.)
UPDATE: Speak, and inaccuracies will soon follow! Brian Strait returns to the line up for the first time since breaking his ankle. He replaces Carkner. Jesse Joensuu does indeed go in for Boulton.
Some links to tide you over:
- Here's a conversation [audio] with Arthur Staple of Newsday and Jets followers Illegal Curve: On the Isles' surge, Josh Bailey, John Tavares' Hart candidacy, Evgeni Nabokov's influence on the team.
- Here's Staple's gameday article in Newsday on the Isles' playoff push.
- Get ready for another EA cover vote. John Tavares and Michael Grabner are your Isles candidates.
- The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were officially eliminated from the playoffs last night in a 3-1 loss in Portland. Ryan Strome scored. Rick DiPietro made 16 saves. Fornabaio's gamer has post-game reaction, and his live blog has several notes from the game.
- Winnipeg's papers point a focus on Zach Bogosian facing John Tavares, though Travis Hamonic vs. Evander Kane will be another interesting battle. Those two tend to find each other in Isles-Jets matchups.
- Winnipeg also fancies their line of Andrew Ladd with Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, which includes at least two underrated players.
So this is it. As far as the remaining schedule goes, there might end up being a more pivotal game in the final week, but none of them hold the high stakes for both the Isles and their opponent like this one does.
The Islanders are on a 10-1-2 run (including 7-0-2 in their last nine), while the Jets have rebounded with a five-game winning streak of their own. Should be a great atmosphere, hopefully a great win that disappoints the locals.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for this 3 p.m. EDT start in this thread. The leaderboard has been updated.