COMMENTARY | With the regular season less than three weeks from drawing to a close, the New York Islanders may need to rely on unlikely secondary scorers to secure a playoff spot.
While their recent 6-1-1 run and legitimate eighth seed in the standings will certainly help, so may improbable sources.
Forwards Colin McDonald and Casey Cizikas could prove invaluable down the stretch. Although both have just 14 points each in 36 games this year, a large portion of those points have come against New York's remaining eight opponents.
While McDonald has struggled to get his name on the scoresheet recently, he's netted six goals and 11 points against the remaining clubs. McDonald has been particularly successful against the Flyers, Rangers, Maple Leafs and Sabres, earning two points against each one of those opponents.
Cizikas finds himself in a similar position with three goals and six assists against the remaining eight, but has just three points in his last 11 games.
The same phenomenon also applies to defenseman Andrew MacDonald.
The former junior standout has collected six of his nine points against the remaining eight.
As for goaltending, the Islanders should probably start Evgeni Nabokov in every remaining game except versus the Jets and Maple Leafs. Kevin Poulin should take these starts, especially their April 20 matchup against the Winnipeg Jets. On April 2, Poulin turned aside 23 of 25 shots in a 5-2 home victory over the Jets, suggesting that he could turn in a similar effort when the Isles visit the MTS Centre.
But regulars will still need to make offensive contributions if the Islanders are to secure their first playoff spot since 2006-07.
Although both these figures stand out, so do statistics from opponents.
Carolina's Alexander Semin, who is currently nursing an upper-body injury, could be New York's biggest threat. The Russian winger has scored six points versus the Isles this year.
Although past statistics may not have any bearing on remaining matchups, they are certainly important enough to seriously consider when submitting lineup cards and allocating ice time. Based on these figures, one might reasonably conclude that some unlikely players could assume more of a scoring role down the stretch.
Kenny Lindberg is an award-winning journalist with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Chico State. Lindberg proudly covers the New York Islanders as a Yahoo! Contributor. In 2003, he served in Iraq as a U.S. Army combat engineer.
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