NEW YORK ISLANDERS (38-21-9) VS. NASHVILLE PREDATORS (35-22-13)
8 P.M. BRIDGESTONE ARENA, MSG+, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. TWO HOT TEAMS:
Thursday’s Islanders-Predators matchup pits two of the NHL’s hottest teams against each other. The Islanders are 5-1-2 in March, 8-2-2 in their last 12 games and 12-3-3 in their last 18. The Predators are 10-1-5 in their last 16 games, including a franchise-record 14-game point streak (9-0-5). The streak ended Saturday night in Vancouver, but the Predators rebounded with a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Monday.
2. WHAT IT MEANS:
The Islanders are trying to claim second place in the Metropolitan Division, which translates into home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Islanders (85 points) are currently two points back of the Rangers with two games in hand.
The Predators are trying to solidify their spot in the playoffs. With 83 points, Nashville looks poised to hold the first Wild Card berth in the Western Conference. They are eight points ahead of Minnesota and nine points clear of Colorado, currently holding the eighth and ninth spots in the standings. The Predators are five points back of Chicago for third in the Central Division – which will send five teams to the playoffs.
3. ISLES-PREDATORS II:
The New York Islanders are going for their fifth straight win over the Nashville Predators. Most recently, the Islanders beat the Predators 4-3 on Oct. 15 at Barclays Center, overcoming a 2-0 deficit early for the comeback win. Last season, the Islanders beat the Predators 4-3 in the Music City.
4. OKPOSO IN THE CLUTCH:
Kyle Okposo has scored a pair of huge goals for the Islanders in their last two games. Okposo netted the Islanders’ lone goal on Tuesday with 5:25 to play, forcing overtime against Pittsburgh and securing an all-important point in a tight playoff race. That clutch goal came one night after Okposo ignited an a third-period rally against Florida.
Okposo is riding a three-game point streak and has already topped his stats from last season. In 66 games, Okposo has 19 goals, 36 assists and 55 points, putting him in a tie with John Tavares for the team lead in scoring.