The Columbus Blue Jackets lately have looked more like a playoff team than the New York Islanders, who are battling for home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
Columbus looks to match a franchise record with an eighth consecutive victory Thursday night against an Islanders club that has just two wins in its last nine games.
The Blue Jackets (37-35-4) have spent most of the season attempting to overcome injuries, but they remained alive in the playoff race until Tuesday when Boston knocked them out with a win over Florida.
Columbus beat New Jersey 3-2 on Jack Johnson’s overtime goal that same night. Ryan Johansen had two assists, giving him eight to go along with three goals during an eight-game point streak.
Now that the Jackets have been eliminated, they’re focusing on playing spoiler down the stretch.
They’ve outscored opponents 29-16 during the seven-game run, one shy of the team record set Jan. 6-23, 2014.
The Islanders (45-27-5) are tied with Pittsburgh for second place in the Metropolitan Division, a position that comes with the home-ice edge in a potential first-round playoff series between the clubs.
The Blue Jackets host the Penguins on Saturday and close the season April 11 at New York.
"We realize the reality of situation right now, but we never strap our gear on to lose," Johnson said. "We’ve been winning and we’re going to try and keep winning. We’ve got six games (left) and we want to go 6-0.
"We owe our fans some home wins. We want to finish those games off on a strong note."
New York hasn’t appeared too desperate for home-ice advantage, though, having dropped seven straight on Long Island before beating Detroit there 5-4 on Sunday. It has gone just 2-6-1 in its last nine overall while slipping eight points back of the first-place Rangers.
The Islanders held a one-point edge on the Rangers atop the Metropolitan on March 11.
"We know what an advantage (home ice) could bring for our team," said captain John Tavares, who had three assists against the Red Wings. "We’ll just keep trying to plug away one game at a time. We know we’re in the home stretch, the final part of the season, and it’s crucial we build on some of the things we’ve been doing, especially last game."
The Islanders haven’t played the first game of a playoff series at home since the 1987-88 season, when they fell in six games to New Jersey in the first round.
"It’s really important to us," forward Josh Bailey said. "It’s something that we’re striving for. It’s not going to be easy to get, but that’s what you want – challenges going into the playoffs. Hopefully it brings the best out in us."
The Blue Jackets have brought out some of the best in Bailey this season. He recorded an assist in a 5-2 road win Jan. 10 before finishing with two goals and an assist in a 6-3 home victory Feb. 14.
New York’s win at Columbus in January was its first in regulation there in 11 all-time visits.
Tavares had two goals and two assists in the second meeting with the Blue Jackets, who are likely to go with Sergei Bobrovsky in net for this contest. Bobrovsky has won six times during the winning streak while posting a 2.14 goals-against average and is 10-3-0 with a 2.08 GAA in 14 career appearances against the Islanders.
New York could counter with Jaroslav Halak, who is 2-3-1 over his last six despite a 1.99 GAA in that stretch.
Islanders center Frans Nielsen is dealing with an undisclosed injury and may not be available Thursday. Nielsen has two goals in three games and ranks fourth on the team with 42 points.