ISLANDERS (34-36-11) at BLUE JACKETS (28-46-7)
TV: MSG PLUS (HD), FS-O (HD)
Last 10: New York 6-4-0; Columbus 6-4-0
Season Series: The Islanders and Blue Jackets cross paths for the first and only time this season in the finale for both teams. Columbus took the only meeting between the teams last season, as RJ Umberger's two-point night paced the Jackets to an eventual 4-3 overtime win on Long Island.
Big Story: A pair of disappointing seasons will come to an end when New York and Columbus collide on Saturday at Nationwide Arena. The Islanders were eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday, while the NHL-worst Blue Jackets were unable to recover from an injury-plagued start to the regular season. Both teams, however, are coming off victories on Thursday, as New York earned a 5-4 win in their home finale over the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus topped the Colorado Avalanche by a 5-2 margin.
Islanders: New York will miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, largely due in part to the team's lack of scoring depth. But while the season will not end the way the Islanders intended, the team's secondary unit has performed admirably over the past few weeks. Last week, the emergence of Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo helped the Isles sweep a home-and-home series from the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Thursday, it was Michael Grabner's turn.
Grabner's goal-scoring total has dropped from 34 last season to only 19 this season, but his 2-goal outing against the Jets gave the forward a confidence boost as the offseason nears.
"You definitely reflect on those [missed opportunities throughout the season] because you know some of the games could have been different," Grabner told Newsday. "You try to work on the same physical stuff, get stronger, get faster. I never really got on a roll this year. You need to get that confidence early on."
Blue Jackets: Columbus is in a similar boat as New York, as the team sits outside of the playoff picture for the third straight year. But, like the Isles, the Jackets have reeled off six wins in their last 10 games entering Saturday's home finale. In their last outing in Denver, Columbus spoiled Colorado's season by eliminating the Avs from playoff contention.
Rookie Cam Atkinson, who was recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Feb. 24, notched a hat trick against Colorado to give him 7 points over his last five outings. With the team hoping for better days ahead, Atkinson has provided the Jackets with a late-season lift.
"I think I definitely get a little more confidence as each game comes along," Atkinson told NHL.com. "One more to go. It would be nice to finish the season off on a high note. The last month or so we've been playing for pride and trying to play some good hockey."
Who's Hot: Rick Nash has five goals and six assists for Columbus over his last nine games. … Matt Moulson has scored goals in consecutive games and is in the midst of a four-game points streak.
Injury Report: Nash (undisclosed) and John Moore (foot) are questionable for Saturday's finale. … PA Parenteau (sprained ankle), Evgeni Nabokov (lower body) and Casey Cizikas (upper body) are questionable for New York.
Stat Pack: Much of the struggles for both teams this season can be attributed to their goal-scoring outputs, as New York and Columbus rank 27th (2.38) and 28th (2.36), respectively, in goals per game.
Puck Drop: "We're playing for each guy in the room," Jackets forward Derek Dorsett told the Columbus Dispatch. "When there were scrums [Thursday], all five guys were in on them. That's a good sign."