Rolling Predators face desperate Islanders

NEW YORK -- Two teams looking to get into the playoffs via different methods will meet Monday night when the New York Islanders host the Nashville Predators at Barclays Center.

The Islanders fell out of a tie for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night when they lost to the visiting Boston Bruins 2-1. The Predators climbed out of the wild-card race and into third place in the Central Division on Saturday when they routed the San Jose Sharks 7-2.

The Islanders (35-27-12) saw their two-game winning streak end. They were bursting with confidence heading home -- where they are 20-11-7 -- after road victories over the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

"It's a tough one to lose," interim Islanders coach Doug Weight said. "You start thinking, geez, we were hot at home, two really big wins on the road really validated us and built us up. But we were right there. It's really disappointing, but we've got a day off and we're going to come back on Monday and try to win."

The Islanders are two points behind the Bruins, though they have a game in hand on Boston.

"Disappointing we didn't get (the win)," said center John Tavares, who scored New York's only goal. "We know today was a big game. Could have really put us in a good spot. We'll just keep battling to the end."

After sweeping a three-game homestand, the Predators (38-25-11) appear to have a playoff spot secured. They are 10 points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings.

However, finishing third in the Central ahead of the red-hot St. Louis Blues, who lost for just the second time in 10 games when they fell to the Calgary Flames 3-2 on Saturday, would likely allow Nashville to face the reeling Minnesota Wild (2-7-1 in the last 10 games) in the first round of the playoffs instead of the Central-leading Chicago Blackhawks or any of the four teams battling for the Pacific Division title.

"We needed them because everybody keeps winning," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of the six-point homestand. "In the area that we are in the standings, there is not lot of losing going on and we are just trying to keep pace right now. These games are important."

The Predators' next two games will be important for the Eastern Conference, too. Nashville caps a brief but fast-paced road trip by visiting the Bruins on Tuesday.

"We are headed out for one tough road trip right now, probably the toughest of the year," Laviolette said. "Seventy games ago, we weren't calling this the toughest road trip of the year, but based on where those two teams are at right now, we've got our work cut out for us."

The Predators enter Monday in better health than the Islanders. The lone known injured player on Nashville's roster is center Mike Fisher, who has missed the last two games because of a lower-body injury.

On Saturday, New York scratched defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who has missed 10 straight games with a lower-body injury, and right winger Ryan Strome, who is out for the remainder of the regular season with a broken wrist. Left winger Nikolay Kulemin suffered a lower-body injury on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This is the first game of the season between the Islanders and Predators. The teams play again on April 4 in Nashville.
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