The New York Islanders take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at NYCB Live - Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m. Buy tickets. Watch on MSG+2, MSG GO or NHL.TV. Listen live on 88.7FM WRHU, 103.9FM LI News or online at radio.com/islanders. Read the game preview. Check the game notes.
The Islanders appear to be sticking with the same lineup from Saturday's win over Buffalo, though Barry Trotz did not officially reveal his lineup for Monday's game.
ISLES PLAYING FOR PLAYOFF POSITIONING:
From the beginning of the season, the Isles set out on a mission to return to postseason action after missing out the last two seasons. Now, with the goal accomplished and an official, 'X' displayed next to their name in the standings, the focus has pivoted to ensuring that the Isles position themselves for the best possible seeding in playoffs.
"Our focus is to play well, trust the process," Trotz said. "We're not out of the woods yet. We need to make sure we secure a good spot. Obviously, we'd love to have a home-ice advantage. We're talking about just playing well, playing hard and preparing yourself."
Ideally, the Islanders are vying to win the Metropolitan Division. To accomplish the feat, the Islanders (99 points) will need to earn one more point than the Metro-leading Washington Capitals (102 points) over next two games before the two teams clash in the regular season finale on April 6. The Caps can clinch the Metro with a win over Florida and an Isles regulation loss to Toronto.
At the very least, the next three games can determine whether or not the Islanders clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of playoffs, which are being held at NYCB Live - Nassau Coliseum.
"You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself," alternate captain Josh Bailey said. "We've still got a big week. [Home ice] is something we're obviously working for and striving for. Three games here to go. The ball is in our hands to make things happen. At the end of the day, whatever happens you refocus come playoff time. If you get home ice or if you don't. Whatever the case may be you've got to reset and get ready to go for your opponent. Obviously, it's something that we would like."
Valtteri Filppula participated in the Isles optional morning skate. The third line center was sidelined with an upper-body injury that he sustained midway through the first period against the Boston Bruins on March 19. His timeline for a potential return was projected to be four weeks as announced by the Islanders on March 20.
"There really is no timeline," coach Trotz said. "He's skating. It's an upper-body injury so he's been skating. We're slowly getting back. No time frame."
Injuries have hit the Isles of late, with Tanner Fritz out six-to-eight weeks after undergoing blood clot surgery in his hand on Saturday. The solution for the Islanders has been adopting the, 'next man up mentality' and relying on one other to step up. In Filppula's absence, the Isles third line has adapted with Leo Komarov sliding into the center spot and Tom Kuhnhackl joining the lineup on the right wing alongside Anthony Beauvillier.
"Next guy up," coach Trotz said. "We haven't complained about it. Obviously, it is what it is and we can't do anything about it. It's an opportunity for someone. Leo is playing out of position, but he's done a really good job. Obviously, he's getting really comfortable there. The great thing about this group is a lot of people said they weren't very resilient. They've become resilient...It's become part of the norm."
Video: Morning Skate Update 4/1: Cal Clutterbuck
ISLES GO FOR SEASON SWEEP OF LEAFS:
With just three games remaining in the regular season and a punched ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders look to complete a season series sweep over the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
The Islanders have outscored the Maple Leafs 10-1 through their first two meetings this season. The Islanders took the first meeting with a 4-0 win at Toronto on Dec. 29 and blew by the Maple Leafs with a 6-1 win at NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 28.
"I think the first time in we probably caught them off guard a little bit," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We caught a few teams off guard in the beginning of the year. I think obviously, it was an emotional game here. The turning point for me [in the second game] was the shorthanded goal by Casey. It was a 2-1 game. It was a hard-fought game. Casey got that shorthand goal and there was a ripple effect after that. I think all of the games have been tight games, but we've just been able to pull away on the scoreboard a little bit."
The Isles attribute their success over Toronto this season to their responsible defensive-minded play that has halted the production from the Maple Leafs top producers, John Tavares, Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews. The Leafs trio has combined for one assist over the two games.
"A lot of guys stepped up in key moments," Cizikas said. "We played smart hockey. We didn't give them opportunities off of turnovers. When they had odd-man rushes we had guys getting back and helping the d and stopping the plays. If we keep doing that and we keep playing smart that only helps our chances. They have a lot of fire power up front."
A new wrinkle in the third matchup this season is Frederik Andersen, as backup Garret Sparks had started the previous two games. Andersen is 35-15-6 with a 2.78 GAA, a .917 SV% and one shutout.
Video: Morning Skate Update 4/1: Ryan Pulock
MUZZIN, JOHNSSON GAME-TIME DECISIONS FOR LEAFS:
Defenseman Jake Muzzin and forward Andreas Johnsson are reportedly ill and are both considered game-time decisions for the Leafs.
MAPLE LEAFS PROJECTED LINES:
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Kasperi Kapanen
Tyler Ennis - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Muzzin - Nikita Zaitsev
Martin Marincin - Travis Dermott