03.21.24_GAMEDAY_WEB 1

DETROIT – Critical points in the Eastern Conference Playoffs race are at stake on Thursday night when Detroit Red Wings battle the New York Islanders at Little Caesars Arena.

Ahead of Thursday’s 7 p.m. puck drop (broadcast coverage on Bally Sports Detroit and 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit), the Red Wings (35-28-6; 76 points) hold the second wild-card spot and have a three-point lead on the Islanders (29-24-15; 73 points) in the standings.

“This is exciting and good,” Detroit head coach Derek Lalonde said. “This is what you play for, these moments. Since I’ve been here, we’ve put everything into being in this position and now we’re here.”

Fans are encouraged to arrive early for Thursday’s game, as the first 6,000 in attendance will receive a Mo’ Flow Grow-a-Hair, presented by DMC.

The Red Wings have won two of their last three games, after outlasting the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3, in overtime on Tuesday. Patrick Kane (one goal, two assists), Lucas Raymond (two goals), and Moritz Seider (one goal, one assist) all posted multi-point efforts for the Red Wings, who scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation and netted the game-winner in the opening minute of overtime for the first time in franchise history.

“We as a team had a tough stretch lately,” said Raymond, who is riding an NHL career-high five-game goal streak. “It’s about getting back to that swagger that we have and start playing the way we’re supposed to.”

Raymond said he hopes Tuesday’s come-from-behind victory can be a turning point for Detroit, which has 13 regular-season games remaining.

“Hopefully, we’ll look back at this and see it as kind of a pivotal moment,” Raymond said. “I think we got away with one (Tuesday), but at this time of the year you take every point you can get. Obviously, we want to play better but it’s a good start.”

Captain Dylan Larkin (lower body), who has missed the last eight games, participated in Thursday’s morning skate, but his status against the Islanders was still to be determined following practice.

“He’s got some testing to do, and how he responded from yesterday’s practice and the skate,” Lalonde said about Larkin. “We won’t know probably until this afternoon, but the positive is he’s very close. I don’t know if it will be tonight, but he’s getting real close.”

Lalonde said Jake Walman (lower body) will be unavailable for the second straight game. The second-year NHL head coach also said goalie James Reimer will make his second consecutive start on Thursday.

Reimer stopped 32 of 35 shots against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, improving to 8-7-2 with a 2.98 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and two shutouts in 21 games this season.

“Competing at a high level,” Lalonde said about Reimer. “There’s a fight to his game and I think it helps our group.”

Currently fifth in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders saw their winless skid reach five consecutive games with a 4-1 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Mathew Barzal leads New York with 69 points (20 goals, 49 assists) this season, followed by Noah Dobson (8-57—65), Bo Horvat (29-33—62) and Brock Nelson (29-30—59). In 50 games this season, netminder Ilya Sorokin is 22-17-11 with a 3.03 GAA, .909 SV% and two shutouts.

“They’ve lost five straight,” Lalonde said about the Islanders. “Obviously, we’ve been there, a week ago, in a similar situation. Now you’re looking at separating that difference. Of course, they’re going to play for their season. They’re a really good team.”

Thursday’s game will conclude the season series between the Red Wings and Islanders. Detroit beat New York, 4-3, in overtime at UBS Arena on Oct. 30 before dropping a 5-3 decision at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 29.

“We just got to make sure we are really dialed in,” Seider said. “This is probably the biggest game of our season.”