At least one of the three local teams has qualified for the NHL playoffs in every season since the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey for 1982-83.

But only three times since then, in 1990, 1994 and 2007, have the Devils, Rangers and Islanders reached the postseason together.

Which is why, despite the many negatives of this lockout-shortened season, this month's playoff race should be relished.

The Rangers have been surging, the Devils have been struggling and the Islanders, seeking their first postseason berth since 2007, have been keeping pace. The three may wind up battling for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference, though that's not necessarily how the teams view it.

"Nope," non-sentimental Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I don't care about this. I don't care about that. I just care about winning."

His Rangers have a tough schedule this week with two games against the Maple Leafs, almost certainly playoff bound for the first time since 2004, and a road game against the Islanders on Saturday. After that, though, the Rangers don't face another team currently in playoff position, though they host the Devils in crucial games April 21 and the season finale April 27.

The Islanders in their last nine games play three against teams currently holding a playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the Devils, who lost goalie Marty Brodeur to a back injury for 13 games and have been without Ilya Kovalchuk due to a shoulder injury since March 24, will face teams currently in the East's top eight in seven of their last nine games.