BUFFALO — It is still too early to start thinking seriously about the Battle of New York being renewed in the playoffs for the first time since 1994, but the possibility is sitting there for the taking.

After the Islanders catapulted themselves back into the playoff race over the last two weeks, there are two pathways for them to face the Rangers in the first round.

The first is if they overtake the Flyers and the Hurricanes pass the Rangers for first in the Metropolitan Division.

The second, if the Rangers win the division, is for the Islanders to finish in the wild-card spot corresponding to the Metropolitan Division’s bracket — likely the first wild-card spot, since the Panthers are currently two points up on the Rangers for the overall top seed in the East.

Carolina had closed the gap somewhat on the Rangers in the division. But with the Rangers’ 1-0 win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Tuesday night, they are now six points behind.

The Islanders, meanwhile, are tied in points with Detroit, which fell 7-3 to the Sabres, for the second wild-card spot, but behind in regulation wins.

Tampa Bay is two points ahead of the Islanders in the first wild-card spot.

The Isles trail Philadelphia by four points for third in the division.

But the Islanders have a game in hand on both the Flyers and Lightning.

Of course, before the Islanders start thinking about potential opposition, they need to actually secure a playoff berth, something that is very much not guaranteed despite their strong form of late.

“Still plenty of hockey left,” captain Anders Lee said after the Kings snapped the Isles’ six-game win streak by a 3-0 score in Los Angeles on Monday. “All we can do is respond. Biggest thing after a loss is the game after that. Let’s get a couple days’ rest, get back to the East Coast here, get ready for [Buffalo].”

Even so, the thought of the two rivals going at it in the playoffs for the first time in 30 years is scintillating for any area hockey fan, particularly after the first game between them produced a 6-5 overtime win for the Rangers that crackled with electricity at MetLife Stadium.

It is only a dream for now. But it is not too far-fetched to think it can’t become reality.


The loss on Monday to the Kings marked the continuation of an ignominious streak: per team statistician Eric Hornick, the Islanders have never won in Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles on the same road trip.


The Islanders did not practice Tuesday as they traveled from Los Angeles to Buffalo.

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