NHL

Blue Jackets-Islanders Preview

It's only on the rarest of occasions that the New York Islanders find themselves rooting for the archrival New York Rangers.

Saturday will be one of those times.

The Islanders could have a chance to secure home ice in the opening round of the playoffs Saturday night when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final regular-season game at Nassau Coliseum.

Despite struggling down the stretch, the Islanders (47-28-6) locked up a playoff spot Thursday when Boston lost to Florida and secured no worse than a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference with Friday's 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh.

They'll be rooting for the Rangers to win at Washington earlier Saturday, which would give them an opportunity to clinch home ice in the first round against the Capitals with a victory over Columbus.

The Islanders haven't opened a playoff series at home since 1988 against New Jersey. That would be a fitting send off for the outdated Nassau Coliseum with the team set to move to Brooklyn next season.

John Tavares broke a tie early in the third period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 37 shots Friday, helping New York move to 3-1-1 following a 1-6-1 stretch.

Halak's outstanding performance gave him a measure of redemption after he flubbed a 50-foot shot with 2.1 seconds left in a 5-4 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday following his team's furious rally from a three-goal deficit.

''They had a desperate team tonight and they were throwing everything at the net,'' said Michael Grabner, who added a huge insurance goal. ''And (Halak) stood on his head. But he's been doing that all year for us and the last game, it was just bad luck. We put that behind us.''

Halak doesn't often play the second half of back-to-backs, going 1-1-0 with a 3.68 goals-against average in such contests. Backup Michal Neuvirth has lost three consecutive starts with a 3.06 GAA.

Tavares' goal gave him 84 points and kept him tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead. Dallas' Jamie Benn is also in the mix with 83 points.

Tavares has three goals and three assists in his last two games against the Blue Jackets (41-35-5).

If the Rangers hold up their end, the Islanders will try to become the first team in nearly a month to beat the Blue Jackets in regulation.

Columbus continued its late-season surge with a 4-2 victory at Buffalo on Friday, matching a franchise record with a point in 12 straight games (11-0-1).

Despite finishing as one of the league's hottest teams, the Blue Jackets will be home for the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. A franchise-record 505 man-games lost to injury proved too much to overcome for Columbus, which has allowed three goals or fewer in all but one contest during the 11-0-1 run.

''It's been a tough year for us, and I'm sure it's been tough for them watching,'' forward Cam Atkinson said about Columbus' fans. ''We're a healthy group right now and we're showing we're a pretty good team.''

Sergei Bobrovsky has been at the forefront of the stellar play. He made 23 saves Friday and has posted a 2.23 GAA during a 10-0-1 stretch.

Bobrovsky is 11-3-0 with a 2.13 GAA versus New York.

The Islanders are 2-0-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, winning the first two meetings before blowing a third-period lead in a 4-3 shootout loss April 2.

New York is 5-0-2 in its last seven home games in the series.

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