After being officially bounced from the playoffs, the New York Islanders still have to finish off the regular season. They still have seven games left on the season. With all but one of them against a playoff-bound team.
Today, the Islanders take on the Florida Panthers. Definitely, one of those playoff-bound teams. Although not just any playoff-bound team. Florida is the second-best team in the NHL with 114 points in 75 games. They also sit at an insane +99 goal differential.
So what can the lineup look like as the Isles try to win the game (even if a win doesn't matter)?
New York Islanders: Semyon Varlamov makes a return
After missing a few games due to a stomach bug, Semyon Varlamov was back on the ice for practice. That's good news. He's fit enough to not only keep something down but the team isn't worried he'll infect anyone else on the team.
But he won't get into the game (unless needed). Ilya Sorokin will start his fifth game in a row. Over his last four starts, Sorokin has been really good. In those four games, he's averaging a 0.928SV% and 2.75GAA.
So that's figured out. What about the rest of the lineup?
Grant Hutton is also back from a stomach illness. And while I think the Isles coaching would rather play him over Aho they'll likely give him another day to get up to 100% before playing him.
When it comes to the bottom six, Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom could stay in rather than playing Ross Johnston. The Panthers have some toughness but they're built on speed and scoring from just about everywhere in the lineup.
Bellows has shown that he can play a quicker game while also being a bit physical. So playing him tonight against the Panthers makes sense.
Islanders Projected Lineup