With other 82nd games finishing before the New York Islanders' 81st and 82nd games of the season this weekend, their charge is now clear:
- Get three or more points (in any format, shootout win/loss included), and they claim third place in the Metropolitan Division and open the playoffs in Pittsburgh for a rematch of their 2013 series.
- Get two or fewer points, and they finish fourth in the Metro, with the first wild card spot, and open the playoffs in Florida for their first-ever playoff clash with the Atlantic champion Panthers.
The Red Wings' loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden this afternoon assured that scenario, with the Rangers now two points ahead of the Islanders and holding the tiebreaker of regulation/OT wins (ROW). The Wings are in the playoffs despite their loss -- Boston's season-ending home meltdown against the Senators assured that -- and the Flyers are in too after beating the Penguins.
If the Islanders don't at least get a point tonight, tomorrow's makeup finale with the Flyers will mean nothing to either side.
The Isles, as expected, take a very different lineup into the weekend while several regulars recover from nagging injuries. (A warning about that: The Rangers did the same, and won, against a Detroit team fighting for its playoff life. Hockey is an inherently close game.)
Bridgeport leading scorer Bracken Kearns and workhorse Alan Quine were recalled for this one. It will be the NHL debut for Quine, who has steadily made himself a key all-zone forward in the AHL. They join a trio of rookies expected to play on the blueline: Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech, in his first NHL appearance since missing the second half with recovery from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
The lot of them are here thanks to a lengthy injury list:
- Pre-existing long-term injuries to Jaroslav Halak, Travis Hamonic (who is skating, however) and Mikhail Grabovski
- Nagging day-to-day injuries to Jean-Francois Berube, Cal Clutterbuck
- The devastating loss of Anders Lee to a broken leg
- The unspecified injury to Brian Strait
- Newly announced day-to-day issues for Matt Martin and Thomas Hickey, plus potentially Kyle Okposo missing the game with a second child due any day.
- NHL.com also listed Marek Zidlicky as a scratch.
The Sabres have a few injuries of their own, the latest being Zach Bogosian. This is their season finale. It's not a major lottery issue this year; they can finish anywhere from 22nd to 24th overall.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight over here.