The Canadiens’ schedule takes on a greater sense of urgency beginning with Sunday’s home game against the New York Islanders (6 p.m., TSN, RDS, TSN Radio 690).

The Canadiens sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and that was once good enough for a playoff spot. But realignment has brought with it a new system for determining the playoffs and if the season ended today, the Canadiens would have a lot of free time on their hands.

This season, the top three teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and the final two spots go to the next two teams with the most points. That means a division can’t have more than five teams in the playoffs. An Ottawa victory over the hapless Florida Panthers Saturday dropped the Canadiens into sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

“It’s still early, but that’s somewhere we have to be aware of,” said captain Brian Gionta. “Those conference games are even more important,”

The Canadiens, who are on a four-game losing streak, have played 12 of their first 17 games against Western Conference teams, but the emphasis switches back to the East. The Islanders’ game kicks off a run which will see Montreal play 14 of its next 15 games against Eastern Conference teams.

The Canadiens’ record stands at 8-8-1 and it’s not difficult to pinpoint the team’s major problem: scoring goals.