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Jackets, Islanders take different approaches to matchup

NEW YORK -- Two teams with different goals -- and two coaches with very different ways of stating them -- square off Saturday afternoon when the New York Islanders host the Columbus Blue Jackets in a key Eastern Conference game at Barclays Center.

The Islanders fell out of the second wild-card spot in the East on Thursday when they lost to the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. The Blue Jackets crept closer to the Washington Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead -- and for the best record in the NHL -- on Thursday when they edged the Florida Panthers 2-1.

With the loss Thursday, the Islanders (33-26-11) dropped into a tie for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams are a point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs in the race for the second wild card.

Speaking after practice Friday, interim Islanders coach Doug Weight didn't mind discussing the task ahead of his team, nor the approach he wants New York -- which has lost three of its last four games -- to take down the stretch.

"It's like a bike race," Weight told Newsday. "There were seven teams a week ago, now there's three. We're in the separation group.

"I know the world is ending here when you lose, but you go home, you wake up and we're one point out, same place we've been for the last two weeks. We're in a really good spot and we just have to get some consistency back."

Consistency hasn't been a problem for the Blue Jackets (45-18-6), who have already set franchise records for wins and points (96) while establishing themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

But even with Columbus in third place in the Metropolitan -- one point behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins and two points behind the Capitals -- coach John Tortorella said Friday that he had no interest in obsessing over potential playoff seeding and the Presidents' Trophy, even if he encouraged players to focus on those objectives.

"I don't mind (players) talking about it and looking up (at the standings) because I think that's very important to have the confidence to look up," Tortorella told The Columbus Dispatch after the Blue Jackets' practice. "Just as long as (they) are not skipping anything every day."

As for Tortorella?

"I'm not in the conversation about the Presidents'-whatever-it's-called," Tortorella said. "I'm getting ready for the Islanders."

Weight said the Islanders' No. 1 goalie, Thomas Greiss, will start Saturday. Greiss will likely be opposed by the Blue Jackets' top net-minder, Sergei Bobrovsky.

Greiss will be looking to snap a four-game slump in which he has allowed 14 goals on just 98 shots. He took the loss Thursday after stopping 24 of 28 shots by the Jets.

Bobrovsky extended his winning streak to six games on Thursday, when he had 33 saves. He has allowed just six goals on 183 shots in that stretch.

Islanders center Casey Cizikas, who has missed the last 11 games with an upper-body injury, will return to action Saturday after being activated off injured reserve on Friday.

Updated March 18, 2017

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