The Boston Bruins are atop the Northeast Division and need one point to clinch a playoff berth for the right to defend the Stanley Cup.
While a trip to Long Island seems like a good opportunity to fulfill that goal, the last-place New York Islanders are not making things easy on playoff-bound teams.
The Bruins take the ice Saturday against the Islanders, who are coming off back-to-back victories over one of the league's best teams.
Boston (45-28-4) could have clinched a playoff berth with a win over Washington on Thursday but suffered a 3-2 shootout loss. The Bruins were fortunate to get one point considering they trailed 2-0 with just over three minutes to play.
David Krejci got Boston within one at 16:50 of the third period and Andrew Ference tied it with 1:16 left. The Bruins could not fully complete the comeback, however, losing for the first time in four games.
"You got to be satisfied with the effort," defenseman Joe Corvo said. "It shows character to battle back and score two goals late and get a point."
The Islanders (33-33-11) are also showing plenty of character, playing the role of spoiler perfectly.
After beating Southeast-leading Florida 3-2 in a shootout Sunday, New York swept a home-and-home set from Pittsburgh this week by 5-3 scores, significantly hurting the Penguins' chances of catching the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
The Islanders, who have long been out of the playoff conversation and are last in the Atlantic, have won five of six.
"We always play to win, no matter where we are in the standings," right wing Kyle Okposo said. "We always play with pride. I think the last two games definitely showed that."
Okposo and Josh Bailey each scored twice in Thursday's finale with Pittsburgh. Okposo has goals in a season-high four straight games, while Bailey has three goals and nine assists during a season-high six-game point streak.
The Islanders, who have an East-low 190 goals, have three five-goal games in their last five contests after recording five goals in a game three times in their previous 48.
It could be difficult to continue that surge against Tim Thomas, who is 4-1-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average and a shutout in his last six starts. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner, though, might be playing behind a banged-up defense.
The Bruins lost defenseman Adam McQuaid in the first period Thursday after he was knocked into the boards by Washington's Jason Chimera. He suffered a cut over his eye, and coach Claude Julien said "he wasn't feeling quite right."
Boston was already missing defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who sat out his first game because of an infection resulting from a cut in his leg sustained in last Saturday's 4-2 win over Los Angeles. He is listed as day-to-day.
Thomas didn't start Boston's last game against the Islanders on March 3, but he replaced an injured Tuukka Rask midway through the second period and stopped 11 of 13 shots in a 3-2 loss. He is 9-3-1 with a 1.69 GAA and a shutout in 13 games in the series since 2007-08.
Boston had won the first two meetings this season by a combined 12-2.