Nashville Predators at New York Islanders: Playoff Berth can Become Official

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, the Predators can clinch with a win on Saturday and a little help.
Jan 13, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45)
Jan 13, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45) / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Five teams remain mathematically alive in the Western Conference playoff race, with the Nashville Predators leading the pack and in position to clinch a spot with a win over the New York Islanders and some extra help.

The Predators took a huge step towards returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs by ending their three-game skid on Thursday and defeating the St. Louis Blue in regulation.

For the Predators to officially lock up a playoff spot on Saturday, they'll need to beat the Islanders in regulation, the Sharks will have to beat the Blues in regulation, and the Jets will need to beat the Wild in any fashion.

Another Playoff Atmosphere Expected for Preds vs. Isles

The Predators beat the Islanders 3-1 on January 13 in Nashville led by a 24-save effort from Juuse Saros and goals from Luke Evangelista, Alexandre Carrier and Juuso Parssinen.

This time around it looks likely that the Predators will go with Kevin Lankinen in net to give Saros some rest. Lankinen has been very reliable in road game situations, going 9-4-0 with a .908 save percentage and 2.87 GAA.

Lankinen's numbers don't pop off the stat sheet, but you can't underestimate how vital it is to have a quality backup at this stage in the regular season.

On the other end, the Islanders have confirmed Semyon Varlamov as their starter against the Predators. Varlamov didn't get the start in the January meeting.

Varlamov, viewed as a Vezina Trophy caliber goalie, has had a down year very similar to that of Saros. Besides that, Varlamov is still a goalie that the Predators will have to get quality scoring chances against to beat him. It won't be an easy game to pile up the goals.

The Islanders are in the middle of a dog fight for the Eastern Conference's final wildcard spot. They are currently in third place of their division by way of tiebreaker of the Flyers, but are just one point ahead of the Capitals and two points ahead of the Penguins.

So in other words, expect a very desperate Islanders team to bring everyting and the kitchen sink at home. The Predators cannot come in flat footed off the opening puck drop or the Islanders might jump on them fast.

The Islanders have the NHL's worst penalty kill at 71.8 percent, while the Predators are coming off a game against the Blues where the power play went two out of three. With that, the Islanders do a good job staying disciplined averaging among the fewest penalty minutes per game in the NHL.

The Predators will need to win those puck battles, control the zone time and force the Islanders into uncharacteristic penalties to get the crowd out of it and feast off their team's most glaring weakness.


Despite the win, the Predators didn't play their sharpest game in this area against the Blues. They lost a lot of puck battles and left Saros to deal with a shooting gallery. That can't happen again today for Lankinen.

Next. Preds. Don't Underestimate the Value of Kevin Lankinen for Preds. dark

The Predators also need to play a smart game in terms of knowing the situation. Even getting point, while you always prefer the two points, won't be all that bad. That keeps the pressure on the Blue to remain perfect in the final few games.

This should be a highly emotional and intense game. Expect both teams to be physical and have short fuses. It already has felt like playoff hockey for a while now for both teams.

Filip Forsberg is looking to conquer the franchise milestone of single season goal record. He needs just one goal to pass Matt Duchene's 43 set in 2021-22. Forsberg also has an outside chance to reach the 100-point milestone, which would be a first for Predators history.

Historically the Predators have controlled the head to head series in decisive fashion with a record of 23-8-3. That is the second-highest points percentage for the Predators against any opponent. Only the Blue Jackets have had worse times against the Predators in the all-time series.