Of all the eye-catching numbers the Islanders have posted this season, perhaps the best and most important ones are the team's records within the Eastern Conference (20-5-1) and within the Metro Division (13-2-0).

There's no reason to rehash last season's records in those two categories. They weren't good by any comparison. This year's team has shown a new sense of purpose to not only earn crucial points, but earn them against the teams the Isles are trying to outdistance in the playoff hunt.

That is what made Tuesday night's 3-0 win over the Rangers at the Garden so special. Sure, it was nice to largely dominate their archrivals, but winning a third straight against a divisional foe was nicer.

"These games are huge, not just because it's the Rangers," Anders Lee said. "We want to pick up as many points as we can right now."

The 13 divisional wins are tops in the NHL, having beaten all seven fellow Metro teams at least once. And this is not beating up on weaker teams at the bottom. The Isles are 6-2 against the Penguins, Capitals and Rangers, the three teams most likely to join the Isles in the postseason.

"We've done a good job rebounding from a couple bad games," Travis Hamonic said. "It doesn't get easier from here over this next little stretch, either."

The Penguins come to the Coliseum Friday and the Isles move on to Montreal Saturday night to face the Canadiens, one of only three Eastern teams (the Leafs and Sabres are the others) the Isles haven't beaten this season.

In another season, that might have been daunting, to face two of the East's best on consecutive nights. But here are more pleasing numbers: the Isles are 6-1-0 in the front ends of back-to-backs this season and 6-1-0 in the second halves of those sets.

The Islanders are elite for now. They are the team opponents circle on their schedules, even if the players' words are not exactly brash just yet. "You can see the confidence in how we're playing," John Tavares said. "But it's 43 games. There's a long way to go."