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Apr 5, 2024 4:04 pm

Islanders, firmly in wild-card mix, host Predators

islanders predators barzal

The New York Islanders headed home Thursday night with sole possession of the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

They were set to spend Friday night finding out whether they’ll take the ice Saturday with control of their playoff destiny.

The Islanders will look to continue their timely winning streak when they host the Nashville Predators in a pivotal late-season game for both teams in Elmont, N.Y.

Each squad was off after earning wins Thursday. The visiting Islanders won their third straight game by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2.

The host Predators snapped a three-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Shortly after beating the Blue Jackets, the Islanders (34-27-15, 83 points) moved into the second wild card by virtue of the Pittsburgh Penguins closing out a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals. The win also allowed New York to tie the idle Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division, though the Flyers have the regulation-wins tiebreaker.

New York was one point ahead of the Capitals (36-29-10, 82 points) and the Detroit Red Wings (37-30-8, 82 points) entering Friday, when the Capitals were set to visit the Carolina Hurricanes and the Red Wings were to face the New York Rangers.

The Flyers were also scheduled to play Friday at the Buffalo Sabres, which gives Philadelphia one more game played than the Islanders.

Of course, the Islanders know all the scoreboard-watching will be rendered meaningless if they don’t maintain the momentum they’ve built this week. New York beat the Flyers 4-3 in overtime Monday before edging the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Tuesday.

“It does feel like a playoff game for us every night,” said Islanders center Mathew Barzal, who had two assists Thursday. “We’re fighting for our season right now. These are the best games of the year, really.”

The fight is less urgent for the Predators (44-28-4, 92 points), who are one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the race for the first wild card in the Western Conference and eight points clear of the ninth-place Blues.

Nashville could clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday and a St. Louis loss against the San Jose Sharks.

But the Predators’ win Thursday was still a timely one. In addition to damaging the Blues’ slim playoff hopes, Nashville’s wire-to-wire victory restored some confidence following an unusual skid.

The Predators were outscored 18-8 in their previous three losses, a span in which they squandered multi-goal leads against the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche prior to giving up three goals in the third period of a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

“It’s not going to be great every night — maybe a little bit unrealistic expectations (to) think you’re (always) going to have your ‘A’ game,” Predators coach Andrew Brunette said.

“I think we had it, even (in) the losses. Maybe the Arizona game, at times, got a little loose. But the Colorado (game) and the Boston game probably took a big chunk out of us.”

–Field Level Media

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