The New York Islanders all but secured their spot in the playoffs over the weekend by beating a pair of teams trying to get into postseason position.
Now comes another desperate foe -- the Columbus Blue Jackets, who will try to get back into a wild card spot Tuesday night when they host the Islanders.
Both teams were off Monday following shutout victories Sunday. The host Islanders blanked the Arizona Coyotes 2-0; the visiting Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak by cruising past the Vancouver Canucks 5-0.
The much-needed win for the Blue Jackets (41-30-4) allowed them to tread water in the race for the two Eastern Conference wild card spots, which are held by a pair of teams that played each other Sunday. The Carolina Hurricanes extended their lead for the first wild card to three points by edging the Montreal Canadiens, 2-1 in overtime.
Columbus is a point behind the Canadiens, who are scheduled to host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jackets host the Canadiens on Thursday night, so a win over the Islanders would ensure Columbus is at least playing for a share of the second wild card spot when Montreal arrives.
But that could be easier said than done for the Blue Jackets, who are 0-3-0 against the Islanders this season. Columbus was shut out in each of the past two losses, a 3-0 decision in Ohio on Feb. 14 and a 2-0 defeat on Long Island on March 11.
"We have to treat every game from now on (as a) must-win, really," Blue Jackets right winger Josh Anderson said after scoring a pair of goals in Sunday's victory.
"We've got to go out there and give it our all. This is the time of the year where it's fun hockey. We're playing for something here, so we all know that and we've got to look forward to our next game and start early in the game."
The fun returned over the weekend for the Islanders (44-25-7), who all but eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers from the wild card race with a 4-2 win on Saturday before leveling another damaging blow to the Coyotes' Western Conference wild card hopes on Saturday.
New York will enter Tuesday one point behind the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division and nine points clear of the Blue Jackets.
The consecutive wins came at a pivotal time for the Islanders, who needed to steady themselves and regain momentum after a four-game stretch in which they went 1-3-0 while being outscored 13-4.
"Getting back to having fun playing, not thinking too much, just playing our game," Islanders goalie Robin Lehner said after he earned his career-high fifth shutout by stopping 31 shots Sunday. "It's been fun all year when we play our game even though it's a low-scoring game sometimes."
Lehner will likely sit Tuesday in favor of Thomas Greiss, who has earned wins in all three games against the Blue Jackets this season while giving up just two goals on 92 shots.
The Blue Jackets' No. 1 goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, will probably draw the start Tuesday after stopping all 21 shots he faced against the Canucks. It was the second shutout in three starts for Bobrovsky, who turned back 46 shots in a 3-0 win over the Hurricanes on March 15.
Greiss is 8-6-3 in 18 career games against the Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky is 15-8-0 in 24 career games against the Islanders, although he has been in net for all three losses to New York this year.
--Field Level Media
Blue Jackets chase playoff spot vs. Islanders
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