DETROIT, Michigan -- After coming out of New York with a huge point against the Rangers, the New York Islanders hope to take steps in securing their playoff spot Thursday night in Detroit. The Islanders need to amass only three points in their final three games to knock the Rangers out for good. They take on a Red Wings team that is also hungry for points as the season winds down. Already conquering the Central Division, Detroit needs only to win their remaining three games to win the West. Doing so would also put them into contention for their second straight President's Trophy.
On Monday night, Curtis Joseph posted his 5th shutout of the season as the Red Wings beat up on a shaky Predators team, winning 3-0. The victory was Detroit's 20th in the past 24 games. The Red Wings have locked up first place in the Central Division, but surprisingly are still unsatisfied with their positioning heading into the playoffs.
''We've been climbing the ladder the last month or so. We wanted to finish first overall. That's still our goal.''- Detroit Goaltender Curtis Joseph.
The Red Wings learned of some great news recently, as coach Dave Lewis announced that we should see Defenseman Jiri Fischer slip back into the line-up very soon. Lewis sighted Saturday's game against Columbus or Sunday's game against Chicago as the probable return dates. Lewis also went on to say that Fischer would not be playing in Thursday's contest against the Islanders. Fischer went down with a knee injury early in the season in a game against the Bruins
The Islanders blew a two-goal lead in the third period against the Rangers, yet were still able to salvage an important tie. With three games left on their schedule, the Isles won't be looking to pass up any more opportunities to solidify their spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Thursday's game against the Red Wings will provide the opportunity for the Islanders to get two more points out of the way. If they are able to accomplish just that, they will only need a tie or an overtime loss against either the Thrashers or the Hurricanes to remain in the 8th and final slot.
-Players to Watch-
New York (I): #44 Janne Niinimaa (5 goals, 27 assists)- Solid defenseman who will be looked upon to contain some of the top offensive talent in the league in Detroit.
Detroit: #20 Luc Robitaille (9 goals, 20 assists)- Scored a big goal against the Islanders this season. Maybe "Lucky" Luc will have something up his sleeve during Thursday night's game as well.
-Out or in Doubt-
New York (I): Kevin Haller D (Groin/Out)
Detroit: Jiri Fischer D (Knee/Out)
Game 1:December 17, 2002- Tie 2-2
Detroit: #31 Curtis Joseph (33-18-6, 2.47 GAA, .913 SV%, 5 SO), #34 Manny Legace (14-5-3, 2.06 GAA, .929 SV%, 0 SO)
-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
New York (I): Six players tied with 1 point vs. Detroit
Detroit: Six players tied with 1 point vs. New York (I)
The game will be televised nationally at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN.