Martin Biron #43 and John Tavares #91 of the New...

Martin Biron #43 and John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrate after defeating the Ottawa Senators. (April 3, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Plenty of people on the outside would like to see the Islanders go backward in the standings in these final games so they can secure a better pick in June's draft, but those inside the locker room much prefer the way things are going.

The Isles' 7-3-2 run in the last dozen games, including yesterday's 4-1 win over the playoff-bound Senators - five of the seven wins have come against teams that either have clinched a playoff berth or still are in the hunt - has them mathematically alive for the postseason heading into the final week.

The Islanders have 76 points, 15 more than last season, and that improvement is the best in the Eastern Conference. Their minus-32 goal differential (209 goals scored, 241 allowed) is a 46-goal improvement over last season, which is second in the East.

There are more than a few good signs, even if their miniscule playoff chances could be completely snuffed out in the next 48 hours.

"Everybody should feel good about the improvements," Scott Gordon said. "We're not quite there, obviously. But the [7-3-2 streak], I don't think anybody expected that."

The major difference between last season's slog to the finish line and this drive is the promise of the Islanders' core. John Tavares has four goals and nine assists in those last dozen games, and he's playing looser and freer than he has since his opening weeks. His chemistry with Blake Comeau (four goals, eight assists in the last 12 games) is a true bright spot.

The Islanders went into last off-season with 14 forwards and seven defensemen under contract, albeit with a total well below the salary cap. They chose to add only Tavares, unheralded Matt Moulson and goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron.

This offseason will be very different, with only eight forwards signed for 2010-11. "There's some room to add some players," Gordon said.

With their strong finish and the resurgence of Tavares, the Islanders could look a bit more appealing to a free agent.