The New York Islanders, who on Saturday clinched their first playoff berth since 2016, visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in what amounts to a tune-up for the postseason.
Twenty Islanders have playoff experience, and five have lifted the Stanley Cup for other teams: defensemen Johnny Boychuk (Boston Bruins, 2011) and Nick Leddy (Chicago Blackhawks, 2013), center Valtteri Filppula (Detroit Red Wings, 2008) and wingers Andrew Ladd (Carolina Hurricanes, 2006; Blackhawks, 2010) and Tom Kuhnhackl (Pittsburgh Penguins, 2016 and 2017).
New Islanders coach Barry Trotz is also a champ, leading the Washington Capitals to the title last year.
"It's always nice when you have an idea what to expect," Kuhnhackl told Newsday. "The intensity and physicality elevates in the playoffs."
Filppula, who has been out since March 19 due to a left shoulder injury, won't play on Thursday but is hoping to return in time for the first round of the playoffs.
"Next guy up," Trotz said of the injury. "We haven't complained about it."
New York (46-27-7, 99 points) still has an outside chance of catching Trotz's old team for the Metropolitan Division crown. If Washington loses Thursday to Montreal and the Islanders beat the Panthers, New York's regular-season finale at D.C. on Saturday would decide the division.
The Islanders, who have won just one playoff series since 1993, have lost both of their prior matchups against the Panthers this season. Florida beat the Islanders 3-2 on Oct. 24 as Mike Hoffman scored just 33 seconds into overtime. The Islanders were home for that game and yet blew a 2-0 third-period lead. >> Read more
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