* When asked by a reporter if these were the biggest goals of his career, Richard Park jokingly replied, "Nah, I've had a few overtime winners."
* With time winding down and the end inevitable - or so it seemed - members of the Islanders began jumping over the bench before the game had ended. "We were in shock," said Jeff Tambellini. "A bunch of us were halfway over the boards and we couldn't believe it went in."
* It couldn't have been a more nerve-racking game and everyone knows that. We bet everyone watching this game almost had a heart attack. But don't think the fans and those of us not on the ice were the only nervous ones. The players were admittedly nervous, especially when they were sitting on the bench. It just goes to show, even the pros get jitters. Hey, we're all human.
* Ironically, the Islanders earned a playoff berth via the shootout, which Ted Nolan has admitted he's not a huge fan of. "It's funny how things turn out like that," said Nolan. "I'm still not a fan of it, but I would have been less excited about it had we lost. Thankfully, we won't be seeing it in the playoffs."
* With Deron Quint's eligibility up, Bruno Gervais will be back in the lineup for the Islanders when they take on the Buffalo Sabres in the opening round of the playoffs.
* Asked what he talked to Mike Dunham about prior to the shootout, Wade Dubielewicz responded, "I asked if he had any scouting reports on their shooters. He didn't, so he wasn't much help."
* You might have noticed Alexei Yashin skating around on the ice prior to the shootout. We expect he was there as a decoy to throw off the Devils into thinking he would be the first shooter in the shootout. Whether it convinced the Devils' coaching staff or not, Satan was able to capitalize on the all-important first shot.
* FSNY color commentator Billy Jaffe mentioned during the pre-game show in Philadelphia about speaking to Ryan Smyth a couple of weeks ago in regards to his summer plans. Smyth responded by telling Jaffe that he shouldn't be making those plans just yet because the Islanders would be in the postseason. Good call, Ryan!
* Nobody said it better than Dubie following the game about the Islanders' miracle late-season run. "The leaders led today and through this entire stretch," said Dubie. "We wouldn't be here without our leaders stepping up in the clutch."
Saturday, April 7, 11:30 pm: Leafs win, Isles live for a super Sunday
First off: we deny, deny, deny. When the Leafs imploded and saw their 3-1 lead become a 5-3 deficit, we swear we did NOT question the character of Paul Maurice's team. Never. Nope...
Did you happen to catch the call on Leafs Radio? "Bye-bye, Montreal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" It was vicious...
We have already heard from a few diehard Islanders fans who called tonight's Leafs-Habs classic the best game they never saw...
As Ted Nolan mentioned, the Islanders did watch the game tonight as a team and are overjoyed with the chance to play for a berth tomorrow. They have also all become huge admirers of Kyle Wellwood...
So here's the deal. We expect Lou Lamoriello to start Martin Brodeur on Sunday afternoon against the Islanders. We predict the GM/coach will never admit it publicly, but if the game were to mean nothing to any team in the NHL, he would have started Scott Clemenson. As a purist, Lou will play his best players in "the interests of fair competition in the league." As we point out regularly, we have been wrong before...
But you know what? That's the way it should be. To qualify for a chance at the Stanley Cup you should, as Ted Nolan says, "go in the front door." The Islanders will deserve to make the playoffs if they beat one of the league's best teams on their home ice on the final day of the regular season. If they don't, in a game that means little to the Devils, well...
Thought the Islanders might grab the front page of Newsday's sports section on Sunday, but about an hour after the win in Philly, when we heard John Sterling say A-Rod's ninth inning blast "went into the black," we figured there's always Monday. That is, if the Islanders win and our man Tiger doesn't...
And finally, we get lots of, uh, passionate emails when Islanders fans disagree with us or we pen something a bit loopy, so let us gloat for a moment. Last Sunday, coming off the lost weekend of Buffalo-Ottawa and after the Rangers creamed the Leafs, we wrote the following:
"We can certainly understand the frustration in Islanders Country, but the Islanders are not out of it. They are not playing well and are not responding to the loss of some key players to injuries and Chris Simon to suspension. But -- and we acknowledge this is a big but -- if the Islanders can figure it out by Tuesday, there is still hope. They host the Rangers on Tuesday, Toronto on Thursday. Then the Islanders play in Philly on Saturday, in New Jersey (against a team that might rest some top players) on Easter Sunday. If the Islanders can win all four games in regulation, they can claim the eighth spot."
If they can win ALL FOUR. If...
Enjoy the game.
(special thanks to Pawel Tauter for the late updates)
SATURDAY'S BIG EAST FINAL SCORES
Islanders 4, Philadelphia 2
Toronto 6, Montreal 5
2 TEAMS, ONE SPOT
GR W L OTL Pts
8. Toronto 0 40 31 11 91
9. NY Islanders 1 39 30 12 90
Saturday, April 7, 5:00 pm: A nerve-racking night, the tightest race, Devils update
* Ted Nolan told his players before the game to not think too much stating, "They've all been playing hockey for a long time and know how to play the game. They just need to go out there, relax and play our system." The Islanders did just that, fending off a feisty Flyers team, that will finish the season with the least number of points in franchise history.
* Ted and the gang will be watching the game at an undisclosed restaurant near their hotel in New Jersey. The players said it will be more nerve-racking to watch this game than playing one, since they have no control over it.
* Tom Poti and Sean Hill each said they have never been in a playoff race that's this tight. Poti joked that he'd be wearing his lucky rabbit foot during tonight's game.
* No matter what happens tonight, you won't see a different Islanders team tomorrow. Nolan and his players all said that no matter the outcome the team will come out the same way tomorrow against New Jersey. Of course, we're all hoping it means something. So grab any Leafs apparel you might have stored away and wear it proudly at whatever home or bar you'll be watching the game. Go Leafs Go!
* There's been no official word from GM/Head Coach Lou Lamoriello, but expect to see Martin Brodeur in goal and a Devils team that was just as tough all season, despite having little to play for except preparation for the postseason. Brian Gionta missed last game with a foot injury, but said he is hoping to return for tomorrow's game.
Saturday, April 7, 3:00 pm: Huet gets the start in goal for Montreal, Toronto riding an eight-game home winning streak
SATURDAY'S BIG EAST MATCHUP
MONTREAL AT TORONTO
Montreal 42-33-6 (Road: 16-21-3) at Toronto 39-31-11 (Home: 20-15-5) - 7:00pm ET
Notes: For Canada, it doesn't get any better than this -- Montreal vs.
Toronto for the potential right to make the playoffs. If Montreal wins, they're in. If Toronto wins, they will hope for an Islanders loss, in order to make the postseason.
Montreal leads the season series 4-2-1 and has won their two most recent meetings, the last coming on March 17. Toronto, meanwhile, has won eight consecutive home games coming into tonight.
Cristobal Huet will get the start in goal tonight after relieving Jaroslav Halak to start the third period in Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Rangers. Huet hasn't started a game since February 14th because of a hamstring injury and has lost his past five starts. Forward Alexander Perezhogin returns to the lineup after missing all of March and April with a head injury.
No lineup changes to report from Leafs Country.
Friday, April 6, 10:00 pm: Dubie returns to Philly, sharing the crease, Smyth's game: more than meets the eye
FAMILIAR FACES, PLACES AND CASES
Wade Dubielewicz will return to the building where his NHL career began - the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. On March 25, 2004, Dubie made his debut in Philadelphia at the start of the second period in a 2-2 game. Dubie went on to earn the win, making 14 saves in the Islanders' 4-2 victory.
"If things are going wrong, I can always look back at that game and smile," said Dubie following this morning's practice. "I also have something else to remember that game - a cream pie in the face afterwards."
Dubie has only played in 15 NHL games, but that doesn't mean he'll need too much of a scouting report on the Flyers. Amidst the Flyers roster, you'll find 11 players who have played extensive time in the American Hockey League over the past few seasons with the Flyers' affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms. Having played with the Sound Tigers over the past four years, he is very familiar with many of the current Flyers.
"The Flyers this year are kind of like the Islanders from last year," said Dubie. "There are a bunch of young guys up from the Phantoms, who I've played many times over the past few years. They have a lot of young talent in the organization that just hasn't quite blossomed yet. There's no question they're going to work hard and try to do the little things. We played a number of games in the Wachovia Center against the Phantoms, so I'm familiar with the rink."
Looking ahead, if the Islanders are still fighting for the last playoff spot, don't worry about Dubie having to play three games in four days.
"This will be nothing new," said Dubie regarding the condensed schedule. "In the AHL we often have three games in a row on the weekends or four games in five nights or seven in ten. This isn't that bad."
SHARING THE FRONT OF THE NET
The line of Ryan Smyth, Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter has seen time together over the past few games, and they're hard work was finally rewarded last night, as the group combined for two goals and two assists. Smyth and Hunter have similar crease-crashing style, but they have found a way to co-exist and work effectively on the same line.
"We're both guys who like to go down low and create space," said Hunter. "It took a couple games, but we're starting to read each other better and get more comfortable. On Smitty's goal, sometimes just distracting the goalie, a bit, is enough to open some space or have the puck bounce the right away. I was just trying to get in front and cause some traffic. Smitty made a good job of batting it in.
RYAN THE LEADER
Following practice, Ted Nolan gushed about Ryan Smyth and how much he's helped this team since arriving, especially recently. Nolan stressed that people should look beyond his drop in goal scoring over the past few games.
"The most important guy over the last couple of games has probably been Ryan Smyth," said Nolan. "He's really leading this team and preparing himself. The intangibles might be missed because of his lack of production. The last few games, Ryan's leadership has really stepped up."
Friday, April 6, 10:30 am: Dubie's analysis, thank you Rangers, Sam's apology
* Wade Dubielewicz appreciated the help in front of him tonight, but said he didn't mind getting the 40+ shots against from the Rangers. "When you get more shots, you get into a groove," said Dubie.
* The best explanation of how the Isles stopped the top line came from Dubie. "Their first line had trouble getting going because of our neutral zone play. We had back-checkers right on them. They had trouble coming into the zone."
* Congratulations to Jason Blake on his 40th goal. A class act as is, he downplayed the accomplishment and was grateful just for the opportunity to be given a chance.
* Thank you Rangers! Now that the Rangers have come through, the Islanders will need the Leafs to do the same on Saturday night if the Islanders win in Philadelphia earlier in the day. The players said they didn't know the Rangers' final score until it was flashed up on the scoreboard.
* We received a very encouraging report on rehabbing dman Bruno Gervais from Bridgeport coach Jack Capuano, who attended tonight's game on the Island. "Bruno looked great," Capuano said, referring to Gervais' return to action for the Sound Tigers on Wednesday night. "For a young player who had missed a lot of action lately, he was very poised and in control. And the best news was the ankle held up well."
* Kudos for Deron Quint for stepping into a tough situation, playing crcuial games for the Islanders after being in Germany all season -- and playing well. Quint was extremely solid tonight.
* Tip of the cap to Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti and the MSG broadcast of tonight's Rangers game. Right at the start, Sam apologized to "our Islanders friends" for saying their team was eliminated on Tuesday night. Joe also stepped up, saying he was to blame, too. Good stuff, and very much appreciated.
THURSDAY'S BIG EAST FINAL SCORES
Islanders 5, Toronto 2
Rangers 3, Montreal 1
Deep Thoughts: The Rangers clinched a playoff spot and in the process kept the Islanders' playoff hopes alive. To make the playoffs, the Islanders need to win their final two games against Philadelphia and New Jersey, while Toronto needs to defeat Montreal on Saturday.
Remaining W L OTL Pts
6. NY Rangers 1 42 29 10 94
7. Tampa Bay 2 44 32 4 92
8. Montreal 1 42 33 6 90
9. Toronto 1 39 31 11 89
10. NY Islanders 2 38 30 12 88
Thursday, April 5, 2:00 pm: Doing it Dubie's way, keeping tabs on the Rangers-Canadiens game, Big East Matchups: New York vs. Canada
PLAYING HIS OWN STYLE
If you haven't seen Wade Dubielewicz in goal the past couple of games, then you've missed something special. He's been calm, cool and collected while playing under the most intense pressure, stopping 78 of 84 shots, some via some interesting acrobatics.
He's not your typical butterfly goalie and Ted Nolan had some fun this morning talking to reporters about his unorthodox-style goaltender. "In the first start, Dubielewicz loses the puck and has to dive back to the goal to stop the first shot. He's certainly got his own style," chuckled Nolan. "It's not pretty but it's effective. He's playing like he's got nothing to lose because he doesn't. The worst case scenario is that we send him back to Bridgeport, where he's been playing all along. He's taken advantage of his time up here."
When asked by the Canadian press if he had seen any goaltending like this before, Nolan replied: "Not in all my years."
Players often admit, and rightfully so, that they rarely, if ever, watch the scoreboard during games. They're generally focused on their own game and hardly ever do other games mean that much to warrant attention.
Tonight is a completely different story with the fate of the Islanders resting in their cross-river rival's hands. You can bet the Islanders will be trying to get all the updates they can on the Rangers-Habs game that starts at 7 pm.
"I'm not going to lie to you," said Dubie. "I'm not going to try and think about it, but it's going to be in the back of mind. Between periods there's definitely going to be whispering about what's going on at the Garden."
Thursday, April 5, 1:00 pm: New York vs. Canada
THURSDAY'S BIG EAST MATCHUPS
ISLANDERS VS. TORONTO
Islanders 37-30-12 (Home: 21-13-6) vs. Toronto 39-30-11 (Road: 19-15-6) - 7:30 pm
TV: FSNY 2; Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Notes: It's win or go home for the Islanders, who still need help from the Rangers. Toronto is also in a tight situation. They're one point behind eighth-place Montreal, but considering they play Montreal in their final game of the regular season they control their own destiny. Back-to-back wins would give them the final playoff spot.
The Leafs have bolstered their lineup since they last met the Islanders. Tough guy Darcy Tucker and Kyle Wellwood are back from long-term injuries, while Yanic Perreault was acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline.
MONTREAL AT RANGERS
Montreal 42-32-6 (Road: 16-20-3) at Rangers 41-29-10 (Home: 20-15-5) - 7:00 pm
TV: MSG; Radio: ESPN 1050
Notes: For one of the few times in history, Islanders Country will be rooting for the Rangers to win. In order for the Islanders to reach the postseason, Montreal can only earn one point in their two next games. This game starts 30 minutes earlier than the Islanders game, so expect there to be plenty of scoreboard watching, and hopefully a loud cheer from the Coliseum crowd about midway through the third period because of a Rangers win. Rangers fans would also be celebrating a playoff berth.
Rangers forward Petr Prucha will be in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Islanders. Expect Colton Orr to sit. Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin will also be back in the lineup after missing the last 16 games with a sprained knee.
Montreal will go with Jaroslav Halak with Cristobal Huet dressed as the backup.
Wednesday, April 4, 10:15 pm: Sam didn't act alone, root for Renney, defending the Leafs, coming (back) to America
FIRST OFF, ABOUT LAST NIGHT...
Anyone else in Islanders Country get home last night and hear from their loved ones, "Great win for the Islanders, real sorry about them being eliminated"?
While there was a lot of chat about good guy Sam Rosen calling Jaromir Jagr's shootout attempt a goal and saying the Islanders were eliminated from playoff contention, here's what we wonder: why didn't anyone -- the producer, the stat man, Joe Micheletti, the intern who makes the popcorn runs -- correct him?
If you are looking for a reason to root for the Rangers on Thursday against the Canadiens -- other than, you know, because the Islanders need Montreal to lose -- let us suggest a real gentleman you can get behind and not feel conflicted about it. Rangers head coach Tom Renney has class. After last night's game, he went out of his way to congratulate Islanders goaltender/folk hero Wade Dubielewicz on the victory. Turns out Dubie used to particpate at Renney's hockey school. Said the coach: "I don't feel good about the loss, but I'm happy for Wade. I've known him since he was a kid. He's a great kid, a real hard worker. I'm proud of him." You'd be hard pressed to find a rival coach have so much integrity after a loss. But when you consider Renney also went out of his way to vouch for the character of Chris Simon, it shouldn't surprise us. Good for him. Now let's go Rangers!
If there was one phrase that could be heard most frequently in the locker room this afternoon it was "we believe." From the head coach to the forwards to the equipment managers, no one was considering writing off the Islanders.
"We have to believe," said Ted Nolan. "We're not worrying about winning three games in a row, but one. It's been our slogan all season long. Last night was the most important game of the year up to this point and the same will be said for tomorrow's game against Toronto."
"We're still in this," said Ryan Smyth. "Ted told us to ââ‚¬Ëœleave it all on the ice, shift after shift. Let's play one game at a time and leave it out there.' It was an upbeat practice today, considering the battle we went through yesterday. Guys are feeling that sense of urgency, and we still believe."
Continued Smyth: "We know the importance of the game tomorrow, not just for us, but for them as well. Toronto is right in the hunt. It's going to be a war out there. All you can ask for is the opportunity to fight for the last playoff spot."
DEFENSE MEETING TO COUNTER BIG LEAFS
The Islanders' defense core left the ice early in order to attend a meeting. Ted Nolan talked about what was discussed in the defense-only assembly.
"We had the meeting today to get the defense prepared for Toronto's attack," said Nolan. "They watched a number of tapes on their style of play. We wanted to make sure our players were informed, so they can think about it overnight and get a little more preparation time for tomorrow.
"The Leafs have that Sundin line that's tough to get the puck away from because they're all over 6-3. We have to make sure we're in proper position and our sticks are in the right place. We might not be able to out-muscle them, but hopefully we can out-think them."
BACK IN THE NHL
Recent signing defenseman Deron Quint has played in 460 NHL games, but before joining the Islanders this weekend, hadn't suited up for a professional game in North America since playing for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2003-04 season. After his Berlin Polar Bears were eliminated from the German League this year, hockey for Deron was over...or so he thought.
"Our team had been eliminated from the playoffs, so I was at home trying to figure out what I was going to do this summer," said Quint. "Once I got the call, I immediately turned back to hockey mode.
"I didn't really know too much about the playoff race. I was following the NHL, but didn't focus on any one team. Once I got the call from Garth Snow, I looked into it. I saw what was going on, and knew it would be an exciting time to play hockey. It's great to be still playing hockey."
With Freddy Meyer out with a broken finger, Quint has been paired with Campoli.
"Playing with a new defense partner you try to watch his tendencies and see where they are," said Quint. "It's all about communicating out there on the ice. He's a young kid with a lot of potential."
Wednesday, April 4, 12:45 am: Staying Alive, Witt gets in the way, Carolina and Florida done
* It has been said that Brendan Witt will use any body part to block a shot. Tonight was the ultimate proof. When it was even hinted at by a trainer that perhaps Witt should rest for the remainder of the period, Witt said, "I HAVE to be back out there," and limped gingerly back on to the ice. Talk about sacrifice...
* WFAN's "Mike & the Mad Dog" seriously contemplated doing a remote broadcast from the Coliseum tonight, but then backed out when the Islanders lost to Buffalo and Ottawa. A darn shame: Mike and Chris missed a heckuva game...
* He didn't show up on the goal sheet tonight, but Jason Blake illustrated once again that he is all heart...
* He'd be the first to admit he has struggled of late, yet it was nice to see youngster Chris Campoli be rewarded for his determination and perseverance with two assists tonight...
* The goal originally credited to Miroslav Satan that made it 2-0 was changed when Miro went on TV with Deb Kaufman and made it clear he didn't touch the puck and Alexei Yashin should have been credited with the goal. And then the hockey gods -- yes, we believe in that stuff -- smiled on the honest Satan as he scored the lone goal in the shootout...
* Best stat of the night -- make it the last two weeks -- was the Islanders out-shooting the Rangers in the third period, 16-5. Ted's team will need three periods of that level of desperation on Thursday...
* Du-bie! Du-bie! Dubie!!!!!!!!
QUOTES FROM TED
With the Islanders shootout victory tonight, Islanders country remains hopeful and Ted Nolan echoed those sentiments following the win. Nolan also discussed his thoughts on the Rangers rivalry as well as Dubielewcz"s stellar performance in goal.
"We live another day, and as long as we have a chance, that"s all we can ask for. It was an opportunity, and I thought we played with some spirit tonight."
"Dubielewicz played a great game. Those three Rangers in the shootout are world-class shooters, and he was sensational. The way Dubielewicz has played the last couple of games has given us a sense of hope again. It doesn"t have to be pretty. You don"t hear enough about character, desire and competitiveness, and Dubielewicz has all three.
"The Rangers always brings the spirit in us. I think this rivalry is one of the best in pro sports. It works on both sides. I didn"t know the magnitude of this rivalry until I came here. When you have a game that goes like this into the shootout, it gets everyone excited. It"s been a great series. But we said before the game, if they"re going to clinch, let them clinch somewhere else."
"You have to give our penalty killers a lot of credit for putting their bodies in front of that puck. Hill and Witt were warriors out there sacrificing their bodies. They battled all series against these guys."
WEDNESDAY'S BIG EAST FINAL SCORES
Islanders 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Montreal 2, Boston 0
Tampa Bay 3, Carolina 2
Washington 1, Florida 0
Toronto 3, Philadelphia 2 (OT)
Deep Thoughts (and Questions): The Hurricanes blew a 2-1 lead heading into the third period in Tampa Bay, lost 3-2 and were eliminated from playoff contention. That means both of last year's Stanley Cup finalists, Carolina and Edmonton, are out of the playoff picture. Maybe that's what some GMs are talking about when they say that each year they need to have a go-for-it mentality. The winning goal was scored by defenseman Dan Boyle, his 20th. Norris consideration, anybody?
Montreal took care of Boston at home tonight with a 2-0 shutout by Jaroslav Halak. So if you're GUy Carbonneau, who do you start Thursday in the Garden: Halak or the returing Cristobal Huet?
Again, the Flyers gave it all they had, even getting a late goal to tie by old friend Mike York. But Toronto got two huge points on a overtime power play goal by Bryan McCabe. Remember when the refs wouldn't even think of calling a penalty in overtime?
The Panthers were game, but came up short tonight in Washington, 1-0. On the list of classy, underappreciated players, wouldn't Olaf Kolzig be near the top?
Tampa Bay is in, the Panthers and Hurricanes are out. Do you believe?
4 TEAMS, 2 SPOTS
Remaining W L OTL Pts
6. Tampa Bay 2 44 32 4 92
7. NY Rangers 2 41 29 10 92
8. Montreal 2 42 32 6 90
9. Toronto 2 39 30 11 89
10. NY Islanders 3 37 30 12 86 11. Carolina 2 39 33 8 86
12. Florida 2 34 31 15 83
Tuesday, April 3, 12:30 pm: An upbeat morning skate, Blake gives his take, Isles look for some out-of-town help
MORE THAN JUST ANY RANGERS GAME
Despite having a difficult task ahead, the team was upbeat at this morning's skate, perhaps the first of the season that wasn't optional. Jason Blake was as honest as anyone in the room about what the Islanders are up against.
"We have to go into tonight with a sense of desperation," said Blake. "Our focus is only on this game. If we look beyond tonight there could be no tomorrow. It's pretty simple. We have to win tonight before we can think about the next game. We're also going to need some help, but we can't control that. Our backs are against the wall, but there's still fight in this locker room.
"We didn't come out with that desperation the last game. I don't know what it was, but it has to be there tonight. It's going to be tough without Ricky, but we all believe in each other."
Expect a mini-shakeup on the power play tonight. Said Ted Nolan this morning: "When you're struggling like we are, you have to make some changes. You'll probably see some different looks on special teams."
If you're watching at home tonight, make sure you catch Howie, Billy and Deb on the Islanders' version of the telecast on FSN 2...
Todd Simpson has been ruled ineligible by the NHL to play any games for the Islanders for the rest of the season...
TUESDAY'S BIG EAST MATCHUPS
ISLANDERS VS. RANGERS
Islanders 36-30-12 (Home: 20-13-6) vs. Rangers 41-29-9 (Road: 21-14-4) - 7:30 pm
Notes: The Islanders still have a game in hand on the three teams they're chasing - Montreal, Toronto and Carolina. It would be impractical to look past tonight's game and hash out all of the scenarios. Let's just say this is as close to a must-win as the Islanders have had all season. They're taking on a Rangers team that has won eight of its last nine games.
Wade Dubielewicz will get the start in goal for the second straight game after stopping 42 shots against Ottawa.
TV: FSNY 2; Radio: Bloomberg 1130
FLORIDA AT WASHINGTON
Florida 34-30-15 (Road: 11-18-9) at Washington 26-39-14 (Home: 16-16-7) - 7:00 pm
Notes: With their overtime loss to Carolina on Sunday, Florida is hanging on by a thread. If Montreal earns one point, Toronto wins or Florida doesn't muster a win tonight, the Panthers are officially eliminated from playoff contention, bringing an end to their "Cinderella" run.
PHILADELPHIA AT TORONTO
Philadelphia 21-46-11 (Road: 12-24-4) at Toronto 38-30-11 (Home: 19-15-5) - 7:30 pm
Notes: Only one point behind eighth-place Montreal, Toronto is right there. They'll get their chance to go head-to-head against Montreal on Saturday, but before that, they'll take on a Philadelphia team that has been giving the playoff contenders a run for their money. They've recently played in close game against the Islanders, Rangers and Devils, and handily defeated Carolina on Wednesday.
Injuries: Toronto defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will be out tonight after getting hit hard twice on Sunday. Andy Wozniewski will dress in his place. The Flyers could be shorthanded up front with Mike Richards (collarbone) and Scottie Upshall (shoulder) both questionable for tonight.
BOSTON AT MONTREAL
Boston 35-38-6 (Road: 17-20-2) at Montreal 41-32-6 (Home: 25-12-3) - 7:30 pm
Notes: The Islanders could really use some help from a Bruins team that has lost three consecutive games to playoff-bound teams, including Pittsburgh, Atlanta and New Jersey. Eighth-place Montreal will face off against the Rangers and Toronto after tonight.
CAROLINA AT TAMPA BAY
Carolina 39-32-8 (Road: 19-17-4) at Tampa Bay 43-32-4 (Home: 21-17-1) 7:30 pm
Notes: Each team has something riding on this game. Tampa Bay needs three points to clinch a playoff spot and can still catch division-leading Atlanta, which is three points ahead. Carolina is two points back of Montreal with games against Florida and Atlanta following tonight.
Injuries: Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason broke his hand on Sunday and will not play. Anton Babchuk or Andrew Hutchinson will fill the spot. Up front, the Hurricanes could be without Scott Walker, who sat out the last game, and Andrew Ladd.
Monday, April 2, 4:30 pm: You'll see Dubie again
DUUBIE STARTS AGAIN
You could tell that Ted Nolan went into his interview scrum with the intention of not announcing his starting goaltender for Tuesday night's showdown with the Rangers at the Coliseum. But the coach is such an honest man, he couldn't help but crack when asked by Bloomberg Radio's Chris King if Wade Dubielewicz showed enough on Saturday to earn a second consecutive start.
Nolan grinned, hesitated, thought about it for a moment and then said, "Yeah, I think so. He played well. Dubie battles. We like that. I think it's fair to say you'll see him again."
At today's 75-minute practice at Islanders Iceworks, Ryan Smyth was on a line with Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter, while Alexei Yashin remained with Miro Satan and Viktor Kozlov. The rest appears up in the air, as the Islanders wait to hear from the NHL on the status of Todd Simpson, who could see some time at forward if cleared to play.
On defense, most noteworthy was Bruno Gervais' participation in a full practice. Although he is still likely out tomorrow, it's always good to see Bruno back on the ice.