As expected, the first meeting of the season between the St. Louis Blues and the New York Islanders will pit a team with one of the worst records in the NHL against one vying for a playoff spot.
But the Blues and Islanders will be occupying different spots than most projected Saturday night, when St. Louis hosts New York.
Both teams are coming off home wins Thursday. The Blues beat the Washington Capitals 5-2, and the Islanders edged the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2 in overtime.
The win over the defending Stanley Cup champions continued a recent stretch of solid play for the Blues (16-18-4), who are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games. But St. Louis, which missed the playoffs by one point last season to end a streak of six consecutive postseason appearances, is still in last place in the Central Division and facing an uphill battle to get back into the playoffs.
There's plenty of good team stuff happening for the surprising Islanders (22-13-4), who missed the playoffs by 17 points last season and were expected to embark upon a rebuilding phase after captain John Tavares left for the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent.
But the Islanders have won five straight and eight of nine to surge into playoff contention. After Thursday's win, New York was one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We're happy right now as a team. We're playing good hockey, we're chasing a playoff spot," first-year Islanders goalie Robin Lehner said after Thursday's win.
Lehner signed with New York in July after three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
Copyright 2019 by the Associated Press