Isles eye return to first place vs. Sens

( - The New York Islanders hope to regain the top spot in the Metropolitan Division when they host the playoff hopeful Ottawa Senators in Friday's battle at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders enter Friday with 90 points, one less than the rival New York Rangers for the division lead. The Rangers posted a 2-1 regulation victory at the Coliseum on Tuesday to pull within one of the Isles and then claimed the top spot with a victory the following night in Washington.

The Blueshirts are idle on Friday, but they still have the inside track to the Metro title thanks to holding three games in hand over the Isles.

Ottawa, meanwhile, is seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Senators hold a game in hand over the Bruins, who are idle tonight.

New York was playing the second of a back-to-back situation when it lost to the Rangers. The Isles notched a 4-3 overtime win Monday in Toronto before falling the next night in the close battle on Long Island.

Cam Talbot stopped 29 Islander shots and Rick Nash scored the winner early in the third period for the Rangers. It was the final regular-season meeting between the clubs in 2014-15 and possibly the last meeting at the Coliseum, which the Islanders are leaving after this season for a move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Anders Lee had the only goal of the game for the Islanders, while Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in the loss.

Isles defenseman Nick Leddy was scratched from the lineup Tuesday due to an unspecified upper-body injury is expected to miss at least two weeks of action. Leddy, who has 10 goals and 29 points this season, had his consecutive games streak snapped at 320 when he sat out versus the Rangers.

It's unclear if Halak or backup Michal Neuvirth will get the start in net tonight. The Isles, who are 23-10-0 at home, will close a three-game homestand Saturday against Montreal.

The Senators are coming off a road win over the Canadiens, as they scored five unanswered goals on Thursday to down Montreal, 5-2. Erik Karlsson had two goals and one assist to help Ottawa win for the ninth time in 11 games.

Erik Condra, Mark Stone and Marc Methot also lit the lamp for the Senators, while Andrew Hammond remained unbeaten in regulation over his brief NHL career thanks to 27 saves. The rookie netminder is 8-0-1 with a 1.49 goals against average in 10 games (9 starts) this season.

"We know that to make the playoffs we need to go on a run here and to not have anyone pack it in and keep fighting when we're down 2-0 just shows the care in the locker room and that we're going to see this thing through, and I think it's just a big asset that we have that character in here," said Hammond.

With Ottawa playing on consecutive days, Craig Anderson is the likely starter for tonight's contest. The veteran goaltender is 6-6-3 with a 2.50 GAA in 16 lifetime appearances versus the Islanders.

Ottawa is 15-13-6 as the visiting team this season. Following tonight's road tilt, the Sens will play five of their next six games on home ice.

The Isles are 2-0 against Ottawa this season and have won four of the last five meetings. The Sens have fared well at the Coliseum lately, going 4-0-2 over their last six trips to Long Island.

Barring a playoff meeting between the Isles and Sens this spring, Friday's test marks Ottawa's final excursion to the Coliseum.