New York Islanders Hit Familiar Crossroads as Washington Capitals Loom

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Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY SPORTS

While the New York Islanders managed to knock off the Florida Panthers 3-0 on Sunday, they still sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference . The three-game losing streak New York (14-5-3) rode into the contest had to put them in dire straits in this lockout-shortened season.

“We needed a win,” Islanders center John Tavares told the team’s website. “Games are starting to quickly tick down and we need the wins. It’s good to finish it the right way and get ready for a big road trip.”

New York enters a bit of a cross with 31 points, tantalizingly close to the playoff picture yet only surpassing four other teams in the conference and just the Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic Division. They can stick with their current nucleus to make a run at the postseason or resign to the fate of each of the past five years by showing themselves the division basement, trading off key components to hope for the future instead.

Brian Stubits of CBS Sports thinks defensemen Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky along with goalie Evgeni Nabokov would provide the prototypical trade bait down the stretch in 2013, also noting that Islanders general manager Garth Snow has insisted on trying to re-sign each of them as the trade deadline looms on April 3.

The Islanders will, however, have a chance to battle the Washington Capitals to break the tie for 10th in the Eastern Conference while edging closer to the playoff fringe. The two are set to duel Tuesday night at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

Thomas Emerick is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEmerick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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