The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins meet Saturday in Brooklyn for a matinee with high leverage on the Metropolitan playoff picture: an Isles regulation win would pull them into a tie with the Rangers, who have 95 points (and the ROW tiebreaker) and just a point behind the Penguins, who have 96.
However, an Isles regulation loss would open space for the Pens above both teams with just four other games remaining for them, while keeping the Isles in jeopardy of dropping to the second wild card spot currently held by Philadelphia, whom the Isles face on the final day of the season.
The Penguins have ridden a 10-1 surge to get to this point, emerging from wild card and bubble country to put themselves in the driver's seat for the non-Washington home ice slot in the Metro Division. It's happened without Evgeni Malkin, which has coincided with a streak of scoring from "overrated" Phil Kessel.
Islanders (42-25-9, 4th/Metro) vs. Penguins (44-25-8, 2nd/Metro)
1 p.m. EDT | MSG+, NHL.com/TV (free game)
Brooklyn's [ingloriously sponsored] Center
Positively Pitts: PensBurgh
Today begins the Islanders' life without Travis Hamonic, who was injured early in the last game and has been declared out at lest for the remainder of the regular season. He logs the most minutes; there is no way around the impact this injury has.
Marek Zidlicky returns to the lineup for the first time since March 6 to reunite with Thomas Hickey, meaning rookie Ryan Pulock remains a healthy scratch.
Today is another chapter in the "who's the goalie" drama that may or may not be real. Thomas Greiss played in Thursday's win over Columbus and gave up a couple of goals he'd like back. His form hasn't been as great since Jaroslav Halak was injured, though some regression was to be expected from his league-leading numbers during the first half of the season.
Jean-Francois Berube gets the start today for his fifth NHL start.
In the other net will be Matt Murray, as Marc-Andre Fleury took a proverbial "maintenance day" on Friday.