Things are looking good for the New York Islanders. Brock Nelson avoided a more serious injury and appears ready to play tonight when the Islanders visit the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team is winning and is firmly in the first wild card. And they control their own destiny.
One big reason they control their own destiny has to do with the teams around them, and more specifically, the teams playing those teams. Both the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins lost in regulation last night—to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars, respectively—and now the two wild-card challengers are even in games played with the Islanders for the first time maybe since the season started.
If they can get two points tonight, they’ll be able to put some distance between them and the chasers. All three of these teams play Saturday night, so we’ll have a little more clarity by Sunday as to where the race stands.
The Jackets are trying to be bad right now, so an Isles win would be good for both sides. Here we go.
- A preview of tonight’s game. I imagine Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin split the back-to-back (the Isles host the Sabres tomorrow evening), but I’m curious to see who gets which game.
- They have an optional morning skate at 11:30 this morning, so that might give us some clues. Or it might not!
#Isles are on the ice at 11:30 AM for an optional morning skate ahead of game vs. #CBJ.— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) March 24, 2023
- More on Nelson returning to the ice, complete with stitches and a black eye. [Isles DTD | Newsday] Stefen Rosner spoke to Nelson about his injury, and also to Matt Martin about Noel Acciari, who threw the hit that injured Nelson. [THN]
- More on last night’s helpful results; I think the Isles made the Leafs mad, so they took it out on Florida. And the Pens made it interesting, but Jake Oettinger and the Stars held on. [THN]
- Stan Fischler wraps up the week that was for the Islanders. [THN]
- Eric Hornick will provide updates on the magic number as we come around the home stretch. The magic number to clinch a berth is 18, and the magic number for the first wild card is 19. [NYI Skinny]
- In terms of the Islanders, their line consistency has paid off, as the guys have had time to gel. Mathew Barzal should slot in nicely on the top line when he’s ready, and they seem to think he’s getting closer. [The Athletic]
- To that end, rumors of the Identity Line’s demise appear to have been... exaggerated. Cal Clutterbuck looks like he’s back up to speed. [NY Post]
- B-Isles captain Seth Helgeson will tie the record for games played (368) with the franchise tonight against the Belleville Senators; he should own the record after they play the Hartford Wolfpack on Wednesday. [Islanders]
- Tomorrow’s game will be the Islanders’ third annual Nickelodeon Night. [Islanders]
- A new episode of Weird Islanders from Dan and Mike, featuring Joe Buono of Isles Fix and also the author of New York Islanders A to Z. The Weird Islander? Alan Quine, an anonymous guy who scored a massive goal. [LHH]
Last night’s NHL scores include the aforementioned losses by Florida and Pittsburgh. Also, the Rangers beat the Hurricanes.
- However, because Florida lost in regulation, the Carolina Hurricanes became the second team this season to clinch a playoff spot. [NHL]
- If the New Jersey Devils get two points tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, they will clinch, as well. [NHL]
- Goal song rankings, as voted on by readers of The Athletic (not me, though). The Islanders somehow came in 9th. [The Athletic]
- Brothers Eric and Marc Staal became the latest players to decline to participate in warmups on Pride Night, citing their religious beliefs. I bet it’s why they lost: They both played poorly. [ESPN]