Welp, here we are with four games to go, and the three wild card combatants — barring a miraculous Sabres run that will not happen — each stand at 78 games played.
The Panthers and Islanders are tied at 87 points but the Panthers have one more regulation win, which could definitely come into play. The Penguins are one point back but are near-insurmountably behind in regulation wins.
Tonight the Islanders look for revenge against the Lightning while the Penguins host the Wild, who are good, and the Panthers host the Senators, who are not quite that.
Leave First Islanders Goal picks for tonight here.
Remaining games, with the Panthers and Pens finishing up one night after the Islanders’ final game:
Panthers: Ott, @Was, Tor, Car
Islanders: TB, Phi, @Was, Mon
Penguins: Min, @Det, Chi, @Clb
Gotta say this one will be interesting — beyond the normal reasons, of course. The Islanders were recently blown out by the Lightning, but they’re playing at home after a three-day rest and some practice time to work on things like the pathetic power play. The Lightning played last night and lost at the Garden, so home ice is just about out of reach for them, six points behind the Leafs with four games to go.
- So, the deal is, the Islanders need two points tonight. [Newsday]
- They’re hoping the rest and the practice time will serve them well for this home stretch. We are too, boys; we are, too. [Isles]
- Definitely not ideal and not enough rest if “day to day” Alex Romanov will remain out, however. [AM NY]
- They do not take this “special opportunity” to get in the playoffs for granted. [THN]
- In a curious off-day topic, Kevin Kurz ponders if the Islanders can afford to re-sign both Pierre Engvall and Hudson Fasching. [Athletic]
- Fasching is finding his stride. J-G Pageau remembers his first impression in camp: “Whoa, who’s this player?” [Isles]
- Glenn Healy is the latest Talkin’ Isles guest and he covers lots of topics. [Isles]
- More past, and present: Comparing Anders Kallur and Zach Parise. [THN]
- Ilya Sorokin’s lifelong journey to the NHL. [Po$t +]
Last night’s NHL scores — including the Flames winning in Winnipeg to increase pressure on the Jets — didn’t affect the Isles, though the Lightning were in action and lost at the Garden in a “chippy” game with the Smurfs.
- Mikhail Sergachev, who left the Lightning’s blowout of the Isles, returned to the lineup last night. [Sportsnet]
- Also in that game, Corey Perry, who hurts people, injured Jacob Trouba, who hurts people. You just feel terrible for all involved, I’m sure. [Post]
- Expansion draft prize Vince Dunn found a new approach to his career last summer and is enjoying a breakout season for the Kraken, 63 points and counting. [NHL]
- Oooooh boy, here we go again. Lawsuits and stuff between the Coyotes and the city of Phoenix. It’s a Tempe vs. Phoenix fight, with the Coyotes ensnared. [AP via Sportsnet]
- Speaking of messes, old friend Robin Lehner and his spouse are being sued by multiple creditors for alleged fraud in their bankruptcy case. [Athletic]
- Another game tonight: Ryan O’Reilly returns from injury for the Leafs in a big tilt with the Bruins. [TSN]
- Rick Tocchet gave his out-of-the-playoffs team a day off to refresh, and they disappointed him with their effort in the next game. “You can’t check out,” he said, but they really can, and they really do. [Sportsnet]
- Officially now: The Capitals miss the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. [NHL] The insightful assessment: They “weren’t good enough.” [NHL]