New York Islanders center Brock Nelson, left, is congratulated after...

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson, left, is congratulated after scoring against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period on Wednesday. Credit: AP/Alex Gallardo

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Making the playoffs still won’t be easy. But the Islanders may have a smoother path to a postseason berth than any of the five teams still chasing them for an Eastern Conference wild-card spot even if they have the fewest games remaining.

The Islanders conclude their California swing against the Sharks on Saturday night after a decisive 6-3 win over the Ducks on Wednesday night. The trip opened with a 5-2 loss to the Kings — the only playoff-bound team among the three opponents — on Tuesday.

“The good news is that you’re playing meaningful hockey and that’s important,” coach Lane Lambert said. “There isn’t a player that doesn’t want to be doing that. I think it’s a matter of just bearing down and getting the job done.”

The Islanders maintained their hold on the second wild-card spot, and their chances of making the playoffs after last season’s miss have increased to 58.8%, per The Penguins, holding the first wild-card spot, had an 82.7% chance of making the playoffs.

But MoneyPuck had the Islanders with a distinct advantage over the teams chasing them. The Panthers had a 43.6% chance, the Capitals were at 6.3%, the Sabres at 4.8%, the Senators at 4.4% and the Red Wings at 0.7%.

Of course, those odds are fluid based on daily results.

The Islanders did not practice on Thursday and could only watch as the Penguins, Senators and Panthers all play with a chance to alter the playoff picture. The Rangers beat the Penguins and the Panthers beat Montreal. The Avalanche beat Ottawa. 

“We’ve got to turn the page and get back to work and these are huge two points for us,” Brock Nelson said. “We want to follow it up now on Saturday.”

The Sharks entered Thursday last in the Western Conference.

And that’s part of why has the Islanders rated with the easiest strength of schedule among the teams they’re vying with for a playoff spot.

The Senators have the toughest remaining schedule, per Tankathon. The Red Wings’ schedule is rated the seventh most difficult and the Sabres are at No. 10. The Penguins are 13th, the Capitals 15th and the Panthers are 19th.

Meanwhile, the Islanders’ schedule is ranked 22nd with only five of their remaining 12 games against teams currently holding a playoff spot. That includes two road games against the Capitals, who would improve their chances with two regulation wins over the Islanders.

Yet playing teams out of playoff contention late in the season isn’t the easiest task.

“Maybe there’s a couple of guys getting opportunities,” said Kyle Palmieri, who had a career-high four points on a goal and three assists against the Ducks. “Sometimes those are hungry guys. I’ve been in that position in New Jersey for a few years. It’s that time of the year where guys are trying to earn a spot or earn a look for next year and that results in a lot of hungry guys and guys playing for their spots and making sure they’re putting themselves in a position to succeed and be back next year.”

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