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Islanders playoff chase: Where are we now?
Lots of NHL games Thursday night among the teams in and around the Islanders and Rangers that could change things by the time we hit 11 p.m. Here’s what the chase looks like as of Thursday morning:
5th place -- Toronto Maple Leafs, 53 points (24-14-5)
Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 3
5 games remaining: 4/18 vs. Islanders, 4/20 at Ottawa, 4/24 at Tampa, 4/25 at Florida, 4/27 vs. Montreal.
Outlook: They’re 99.9 percent clinched, which is a big deal around there, since the Leafs will be ending the longest playoff drought in the NHL (they haven’t been since 2003-04). What the Leafs do Thursday night against the Isles and Saturday against the Senators will determine where the Leafs finish -- and whether their season finale against the struggling Canadiens could be for home ice in the first round.
6th place -- Ottawa Senators, 50 points (22-14-6)
Magic number: 7
6 games remaining: 4/18 vs. Washington, 4/20 vs. Toronto, 4/22 vs. Pittsburgh, 4/25 at Washington, 4/27 vs. Philadelphia, 4/28 at Boston.
Outlook: The Sens have shored up their play and bring a three-game win streak into tonight’s game with the red-hot Caps, but they still have some work to do -- five of their last six are against teams in the top three of the East, including the rescheduled game with the Bruins a day after the regular season ends. That one could end up being big.
7th place -- New York Islanders, 49 points (22-16-5)
Magic number: 8
5 games remaining: 4/18 at Toronto, 4/20 at Winnipeg, 4/23 at Carolina, 4/25 at Philadelphia, 4/26 at Buffalo.
Outlook: Good with a chance for very good if the Isles can grab points tonight and Saturday against the surging Jets. There’s a very outside chance the Isles could clinch on Saturday with regulation wins in the next two, but what’s the rush? Their play of late has shown a new-found patience, so as long as they keep picking up points, there’s no need to worry about what the teams below them do.
8th place -- New York Rangers, 46 points (21-17-4)
Magic number: 11
6 games remaining: 4/18 vs. Florida, 4/19 at Buffalo, 4/21 vs. Devils, 4/23 at Florida, 4/25 at Carolina, 4/27 vs. Devils.
Outlook: Promising, as long as there are no more clunkers like Tuesday’s loss in Philly. All six remaining games are against teams that have virtually no chance to get in; if the Rangers can commit themselves to grinding out some wins against teams trying to play spoiler, they’ll get there, most likely in eighth, which means a date with the Penguins.
9th place -- Winnipeg Jets, 46 points (22-19-2)
5 games remaining: 4/18 vs. Carolina, 4/20 vs. Islanders, 4/22 at Buffalo, 4/23 at Washington, 4/25 vs. Montreal.
Outlook: Brighter since they stopped a poorly timed five-game losing streak and pulled together four straight wins. They do not control their own destiny, but if they peel off as many points as possible over the last five, they’ll have three days to sit back and see what that pressure does to the teams around them as they finish their season next Thursday.
10th place -- Buffalo Sabres, 44 points (19-19-6)
4 games remaining: 4/19 vs. Rangers, 4/20 at Pittsburgh, 4/22 vs. Winnipeg, 4/26 vs. Islanders.
Outlook: Farfetched, but there’s still a shot. Three of their remaining four are against the teams directly above them, so at the very least, the Sabres could influence this final run. But given their lack of games left and lack of regulation/overtime wins (13), they’re going to need hockey miracles to get in.