Does the history matter?
Does the memory of consecutive final four matchups still carry any weight?
Does the enmity from those games, from those series, resonate?
To hear Scott Mayfield, the answer is no.
Because what is about to take place between the Islanders and Lightning Thursday night at UBS Arena is not about what happened in the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021 when the Isles lost to them in the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Rather, it’s about the Islanders needing a win to keep their Stanley Cup Playoff hopes alive.
“We need two points,” Scott Mayfield said after the Islanders practiced Wednesday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “That’s what we’re looking at.”
The Islanders (39-30-9) enter the final four games of their regular season coming off a lost weekend, in which they dropped a 5-0 decision to the Lightning in Tampa on Saturday followed by a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes Sunday in Raleigh.
Those losses, coupled with Florida’s 2-1 win over Buffalo Tuesday night, have dropped the Islanders to the second Eastern Conference wild-card slot.
Even though the Panthers and Islanders both have 87 points heading into Thursday night’s games, Florida (40-31-7) has one more win and as such hold the first wild-card spot. Pittsburgh, who was blown out Tuesday night by the Devils, 5-1 trail the Islanders by one point. LIke the Islanders, the Panthers and Penguins (38-30-10) have four games remaining.
Three teams. Two playoff spots up for grabs.
Is this fun or is it stressful?
“I just view it as an opportunity,” Lane Lambert said. “It’s a long season. It’s an 82-game season and it’s coming down to the wire. And so what better position to be in right now? Obviously if you could have wrapped up a playoff spot, great. But we’re in the mix and we’re looking forward to it.”
Thursday’s game against the Lightning is the third and final regular season matchup between the rivals. The Islanders have been outscored by an aggregate 10-3 in the two games, and lost both.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Lambert said. “They’ve got some world class players with [Nikita] Kucherov and [Brayden] Point, those guys. So if you give them too much space they can take advantage.”
Take Saturday’s loss, for instance.
Leading 1-0 after the first intermission, the Lightning scored three times in an eight-minute span of the second period to put the game out of reach. Point’s power play goal, his 48th of the season, at 13:26 of the third ended the scoring.
“It was one of those things,” Kyle Palmieri said. “A couple weird bounces and it just wasn’t our best. We just [have] to find a way. We’re at home tomorrow night. Get excited. We had a couple days of practice here to work on some things and just get ourselves ready.”
Notes & quotes: Mathew Barzal, Pierre Engvall and Alexander Romanov did not participate in practice. According to Lambert, Engvall was granted a maintenance day while Romanov is “upper body, day-to-day.” Barzal is skating but Lambert said he doesn’t “have a timeframe right now,” as to when the top-line right wing could begin practicing with the team.