April 8 – Every game the New York Islanders have played the last several weeks has been accompanied by a playoff-like urgency.

On Tuesday night, the Islanders might get a preview of the real thing against their biggest rivals.

The Islanders (35-27-15, 85 points) will try to remain hot and maintain their grip on third place in the Metropolitan Division when they host the first-place New York Rangers in Elmont, N.Y.

The Islanders have been off since Saturday night, when they started a three-game homestand with a 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators. The Rangers moved closer to clinching the division on Sunday when they beat the visiting Montreal Canadiens, 5-2.

Semyon Varlamov stopped all 41 shots Saturday to cap a week in which almost everything broke right for the Islanders, who entered play April 1 five points behind in the race for third place in the Metropolitan Division as well as the race for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Islanders won all four games they played last week, all by two goals or fewer, while the three teams ahead of them in the two playoff races — the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings — went a combined 2-6-2 from April 1 through Sunday.

“Even the last two games against non-playoff teams, you’ve got to win those tight games,” Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri said, referring to wins on Tuesday and Thursday against the lottery-bound Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. “And we’ve found ways to really do that here.”

The Islanders took the ice Saturday knowing a win or overtime loss would vault them past the Flyers into third place in the Metro. They are also one point ahead of the Red Wings in the race for the second wild card.

“(Saturday) was a big, big win for us, knowing that Philly lost — now we’re third,” Islanders coach Patrick Roy said. “The next step is Tuesday against the Rangers.”

The second wild card is on pace to open the postseason against the Rangers (53-21-4, 110 points), who have the most points in the NHL. The Islanders and Rangers haven’t faced off in the playoffs since 1994.

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