Isles visit Leafs ahead of key Metro showdown

( - Considering the magnitude of an upcoming showdown with their biggest rival, the New York Islanders will try not to look past the Toronto Maple Leafs when they visit Air Canada Centre on Monday night.

The Islanders will host the New York Rangers tomorrow evening in a major battle for the Metropolitan Division crown. The Blueshirts are one point behind the Isles for first place, but also have played three games less than their Long Island foes. Pittsburgh is two points behind the Rangers in third place.

The Rangers, however, cannot win the 2014-15 series, as the Isles own a 3-1-0 record in the matchup ahead of Tuesday's final meeting of the regular season.

Tonight, however, the Islanders face a Toronto team which is far removed from the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs have lost four of five and have been outscored by a 10-3 margin in losing their last two contests.

The Islanders have not fared well of late either, losing three of their last four trips to the ice. However, New York has managed to register a point in three straight, going 1-0-2 at the start of a four-game road trip that ends tonight. New York is 19-12-4 as the visiting team this season.

After beating the Nashville Predators on Thursday, the Islanders dropped a 4-3 shootout decision Saturday at Florida. Jonathan Huberdeau scored the lone goal of the final segment and all three New York shooters were stopped by Panthers goaltender Dan Ellis.

New York managed just one point despite receiving a goal and two assists from captain John Tavares, who set up Josh Bailey's one-timer that tied the game at 3-3 with 7:12 left in the third period.

Tavares has compiled 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) over his last 12 games. He leads the NHL with 70 points on 32 goals and 38 helpers.

"I thought we had some pretty good chances," said Tavares. "We were able to create some chances going through the zone and got a power-play goal, just weren't able to get the two points."

Michal Neuvirth, acquired from Buffalo at Monday's trade deadline, turned aside just 15-of-18 chances in his Islanders debut.

With the Isles' big game against the Rangers looming tomorrow, Neuvirth could go again tonight if head coach Jack Capuano wants to keep No. 1 Jaroslav Halak fresh for Tuesday's showdown. Neuvirth is 6-4-1 with a 2.97 goals against average in 13 career outings versus Toronto.

Isles forward Kyle Okposo is nearing a return from an eye injury that has kept him sidelined since Jan. 19. Although Okposo, who underwent surgery to repair a detached retina, has been skating with the club he could still be a week away from returning to game action.

After losing 4-2 in Tampa on Thursday, the Maple Leafs began a three-game homestand Saturday by getting routed 6-1 by the St. Louis Blues.

David Booth netted the lone goal for Toronto, scoring early in the third period with his team trailing 5-0.

"They beat us all over the ice, from beginning to end," Leafs coach Peter Horachek said.

Jonathan Bernier stopped 14-of-17 shots before being pulled after a period of play. James Reimer finished the game and made 24 saves over the final two stanzas.

Toronto has split a pair of meetings with the Islanders this season, as the clubs met twice on Long Island. New York has claimed three of four overall in this matchup and four of five at Air Canada Centre.