Two extra-time wins in their home-and-home set with the Carolina Hurricanes secured a crucial four points. But few will feel at ease unless they add two more against the Blue Jackets to keep pace with the Penguins, who are three points ahead and host Nashville tonight, and the Flyers, who are two points behind after beating the Capitals last night.
The Islanders lineup will stay the same as Tuesday's win over Carolina, including Thomas Greiss in goal.
Islanders (41-25-9, 4th/Metro) vs. Blue Jackets (30-38-8, 8th/Metro)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+
Brooklyn's [ingloriously sponsored] Center
Shooting the cannon: The Cannon
But on the other side, a native son will get his NHL debut.
The speedy and trick-hands Sonny Milano, whose Massapequa family had season tickets at Nassau Coliseum, was recalled for the Blue Jackets. Jack Capuano was an appropriate mix of gracious and competitive about this development:
"I wish him nothing but the best of luck, after tonight's game. It's always something that you'll remember; your first NHL game in your home town in front of your family and friends."
Milano was the Jackets' first-round pick, 16th overall, in 2014.
You could say he and his family are excited for this moment. A bit from the Columbus Dispatch profile:
...he used to wait in the parking lot to collect autographs from players. His bedroom was decked out in blue and orange, with posters of Ziggy Palffy, his favorite player.
Immediately after Blue Jackets assistant general manager Bill Zito told Milano of his call-up on Wednesday, Milano said he reached his mother, Caroline, using the social media video service FaceTime.
"She was so excited," Milano said. "She was crying."
His father, Frank, got right to work as the ticket handler. He might end up getting a private suite. "I’m sure it’s going to be a big group," Milano said. "I told my buddies to text my dad, because I want to focus on the game."
Lots more in that story, which talks about their work on "Hockey 101" skills that should increase his chances of becoming a go-to NHL regular beyond the immense passing skills he has.
For the Islanders, these are the last "should win" points of the season outside of a week from Saturday against the Sabres. Following tonight's game they have Saturday against the Penguins, Monday against the Lightning, Tuesday in Washington and Thursday against the Rangers at the Garden.
They've beaten Columbus all four meetings this season, partly due to a perfect 13-for-13 penalty kill and 3-for-14 power play. A win tonight makes it a rare five-game season sweep.
And seldom more important than now: Their playoff odds are high, but their seeding is still very much up in the air.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here before game time. This is your game thread.