If the New York Islanders
are not within striking distance of a playoff spot, they are at least hovering closely enough to the playoff line and making sure that meaningful games are a part of the second half of their season.
Having held a record above .500 after Feb. 1 for the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Islanders (now 23-24-8) have gone 10-7-2 since New Year's Day to creep to within eight points of the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs
in the Eastern Conference chase. Holding a game in hand on the Leafs, the Islanders begin a critical week tonight in Winnipeg before journeying to St. Louis for a Thursday date with the Blues. The Islanders have earned points in six of their last eight games and return to a building where they took a 3-2 shootout win against the Jets on Dec. 20.
"We have a chance to gain ground," leading scorer John Tavares
said after the Islanders' morning skate at the MTS Centre.
and his Islanders teammates expect a tough test against the Jets, who are engaged in their own playoff race.
"They're going to come out hard," Grabner said of the Jets. "Everybody needs the points right now."
, who is 7-3-0 in his past 10 games, is expected to start for the Islanders.
Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Islanders:
- John Tavares
- Kyle Okposo
- Frans Nielsen
- PA Parenteau
- Josh Bailey
- Nino Niederreiter
- Tim Wallace
- Brian Rolston
- Steve Staios
- Milan Jurcina
- Andrew MacDonald