The fight got a little tougher Tuesday night for the Islanders (44-26-7, 95 points), who are all but assured of making the playoffs -- they will enter Thursday seven points ahead of the ninth-place Blue Jackets -- but are in danger of losing home-ice advantage in the first round -- or falling into a wild card spot.
The third-place Islanders enter Thursday three points behind the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. New York has the same number of points (95) and regulation/overtime wins (40) in the same number of games (77) as the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Penguins occupy second place by virtue of a better goal differential (plus-33 to plus-24).
Should the Islanders lose in regulation and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Capitals on Thursday, the Islanders' lead over the Hurricanes, the first wild card, would fall to just two points. Carolina also has a game in hand on New York.
The game Thursday will continue a run of playoff-like intensity for the Islanders, whose previous six opponents were all either in playoff position or battling for a wild-card spot.
"We're pushing, we're trying to get it," head coach Barry Trotz said of the Islanders, who haven't made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season. "It wasn't like we're not trying. But (the Blue Jackets were) trying to stay in. We're playing teams like that. They're all in. Everybody's all-in." >> Read more
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