- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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The feared emotional letdown?
That happened Thursday, as the Islanders fell 2-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers just one game after clinching their first playoff berth in six years Tuesday night.
The Isles entered Thursday's divisional clash in sixth place with control over their own seeding destiny. But the two points surrendered in an underwhelming effort in Philly, coupled with overtime wins by both the Senators and Rangers, now leaves the team in eighth place, with a first-round match-up against the dominant Penguins looking likely.
With a win in Buffalo on Friday, and some help, the Islanders could avoid that dreaded draw, but the No. 2 seed Bruins and No. 3 seed Capitals are daunting opponents as well. The Bruins boast one of the league's deepest rosters, with some added bulk to their lineup and strong goaltending with Tuuka Rask in net. The Capitals have emerged from the depths of the East to become one of the hottest teams, with Alex Ovechkin absolutely scorching in the month of April.
The Islanders might be a popular pick for a potential first-round upset, but they are headed for a battle regardless of how the standings shake out this weekend.
60dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald