Isles Put Clinch
By PETER BOTTE
Daily News Sports Writer
The ups and downs of the Islanders' season has been such that any big
victory has renewed talk of their resurgence, while any shaky defeat
has led to discussions of their demise.
With few games remaining and with little margin to forfeit any more
potential points, tonight's home battle against the Devils might
represent the ultimate ebb-and-flow game.
Not only are they battling New Jersey for the No. 6 seed in the
Eastern Conference playoff hunt, but the Isles are beginning to feel
the need to seal their first postseason berth since 1994.
"It was big already, because every game is big this time of year when
you're scratching for points," forward Jason Blake said, "but it's a
really big game now. We need to get some wins so we can get this over
The Islanders' magic number of seven means they can guarantee a
playoff spot with any combination of seven points earned by them in
their final eight games â" and/or squandered by either Montreal or
Washington, currently ranked eighth and ninth in the East, both with
As goalie Chris Osgood and coach Peter Laviolette often have
stressed, the Isles can't be choosy about any particular playoff
opponent despite widespread notions that Southeast-leading Carolina
might be the most favorable team to play among the East's three
The Isles actually have had success against all of the teams they
conceivably might face in the first round. They sport a 10-2-1-1
record against the teams likely to hold the top four seeds in the
East â" Boston, Philadelphia, Carolina and Toronto.
Against the lower-half teams in the conference's playoff picture â"
Ottawa, the Devils, Montreal and Washington â" their record is 2-9-3-1
following Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Capitals.
"It doesn't matter where we finish right now," Osgood said. "We need
to win some games."
No Adrian?: Defensemen Adrian Aucoin (bruised heel) and Dick
Tarnstrom (wrist) and LW Shawn Bates (groin) all sat out Saturday and
remain questionable for tonight's contest. ... Captain Michael Peca
thought several unnamed teammates â" D Roman Hamrlik (minus-2 over
33:43) appeared a logical target â" "played on their heels" Saturday
in the absence of Aucoin, who has averaged the second-most ice time
in the NHL this season with nearly 29 minutes per game. ...
Defenseman Eric Cairns will return to the Isles' lineup following a
two-game suspension for sucker-punching Ottawa forward Radek Bonk