A game against against the Rangers is always good motivation, but if the New York Islanders needed any additional incentive to play well tonight, they’re coming off a “humbling” 7-1 loss to Toronto and can’t afford to fall any further behind in the playoff race.
“We have a great opportunity Thursday and we should probably play it like a playoff game,” said coach Doug Weight, per Newsday. “A little harder, a little grittier, a little more determined.”
The Isles are not going to catch the Rangers in the standings. Their only hope of a postseason berth is through the second wild-card position. And though they’re only three points back of the Leafs for that spot, they’ll also have to leapfrog the Flyers while holding off the Panthers.
Tonight’s game will be the Isles’ 33rd of the season at Barclays, meaning once it’s over they’ll only have eight home dates left, versus 18 on the road. Next week, they’ll embark on a nine-game road trip — another challenge to overcome.
But they can’t worry about that now. The Rangers are on a roll, winners of six straight. It’s estimated the Isles will have to go around 15-9-3 down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. A tall task, but not impossible if they take care of business at home.