PHILADELPHIA - There is plenty at stake Tuesday night for the Islanders. They can clinch their second playoff berth in three seasons with a point and retake second place in the Metro Division with two points.
But whether the Isles clinch Tuesday night -- with a point of their own or any loss by the Senators -- or later this week, they are very nearly a statistical lock to reach the postseason. So these last three games, beginning Tuesday night against the Flyers, are more about playoff positioning and seeing if a few key contributors can get back on track.
Anders Lee still is second on the Isles with 23 goals, but with no goals and one assist in his past 10 games, he is the most recent of the team's young forwards to slump. That raises the question whether Lee, Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson, all second-year pros, still are learning how to break through the wall late in the season.
"It's something you try not to worry about and it's something I've always handled pretty well," Lee said. "When the team isn't doing well at the same time, you start to think about it more. And thinking means slowing your game down, which you can't do, especially this time of year."
During his dry spell, Lee hardly has forgotten what to do on the ice. Pucks that were going in while he was parked in front of the opposing net have hopped over his stick or been stopped. He's not getting quite as many chances since Jack Capuano shifted him from John Tavares' line the past couple of weeks, but Lee still produced during most of the season while on any line.
The hope is that he'll snap back the way Strome (six points in the last seven games) and Nelson (two goals in three games) have.
"Eighty-two games is a lot," Lee said. "You're going to have stretches where you're not producing the way you want. It's more about how you handle it mentally than doing anything drastically different."
Notes & quotes: Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) practiced without a no-contact sweater Monday and traveled with the Islanders here, though Capuano said he still is not close to returning . . . Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen, who each spent a few minutes in the trainer's room during Saturday's victory, did not practice. Their status for Tuesday night is to be determined.