ISLANDERS (2-4-5) at CAPITALS (8-2-2)
Last 10: Islanders 2-4-4; Capitals 6-2-2
Season Series: This is the second of four meetings between the clubs this season. The Capitals won this past Saturday in overtime at Nassau Coliseum, 3-2. They trailed, 2-0, early in the third period but got goals from Keith Aucoin and Mike Green to force overtime. Brooks Laich scored the OT winner.
Big Story: While the streaking Capitals are going after their League-best seventh victory in a row after winning in Atlanta, 4-3, Thursday, the Islanders are going after their coveted second straight win. They beat the Rangers, 3-1, Wednesday for their first regulation win of the season.
Islanders: Now we'll see what one regulation win can do for a team that had often been so close. The Islanders lead the NHL with five losses in either overtime or the shootout. They also lost by a single goal to Los Angeles. However, they played a solid 60 minutes against the Rangers and took home a 3-1 victory. Perhaps the best thing to come out of Wednesday's win was that instead of giving up the lead as they did against Washington last Saturday, they built on it. John Tavares scored with 5:06 remaining to extend the lead to 3-1. Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves, including 15 in the third period.
"I think consistently for a full game, it was a great game by everybody," Tavares said. "They way we locked it down in the third period and shut them down was great."
Capitals: Ugly or pretty, it hasn't mattered. The Caps are winning. They held on to beat Atlanta on Thursday despite giving up 41 shots on goal, a season-high for the Thrashers. Alex Ovechkin has four goals and an assist over the last two games after going goalless over the previous three games. Nicklas Backstrom went pointless in those same three games, but he has a goal and four assists in the last two. Jose Theodore should get the start tonight and he's coming off perhaps his best effort ever as a Cap. He made 41 saves in a 4-2 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. Of concern, though, is the way the Caps have played in the third period over the last two games. The Flyers and Thrashers each had 20 shots in the final period, but they were trying to mount comebacks.
"We were way too casual and that's what happens when you let up and you don't just drive," Boudreau said following Thursday's game, when the Caps allowed three third-period goals to let the Thrashers rally. "The great ones -- every chance they get to score they want to put it through the net. You see [Ovechkin], I mean he never lets up."
Who's Hot: For the Isles, L.A. Kings castaway Matt Moulson has 10 points, including a goal and an assist in the last two games. Kyle Okposo also has a goal and an assist in the last two games and he might have been the best player on the ice against the Rangers. Roloson is 2-0-1 in his last three outings with a .928 save percentage. For the Caps, Ovechkin and Backstrom are sizzling again. The second line of Brendan Morrison, Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble contributed two goals and three assists Thursday. Mike Green is on a seven-game point streak.
Injury Report: The Caps have Boyd Gordon (back) on injured reserve. Defenseman John Erskine (hand) and winger Eric Fehr (ribs) remain out. Quintin Laing is also out due to swine flu. The Isles have Trent Hunter and Rick DiPietro on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Tavares' goal Wednesday was his first since Oct. 16. He was a plus-2, his first plus game since Oct. 12. … Isles goalie Martin Biron, who could start tonight, is still seeking his first win as an Islander (0-3-2). … The Caps were 4-0 against the Isles last season, including a pair of wins in overtime. Ovechkin had both OT winners. It was the first time the Isles lost a season series to Washington since 2002-03. … Not good for the Caps is Backstrom's prowess in the faceoff circle. The team's No. 1 center is less than 40 percent.
Puck Drop: Isles coach Scott Gordon on Thursday of course had to face a question or two about who was going to start in net against the Caps, Roloson or Biron?
"We have two No. 1s," Gordon told Newsday. "My decision on who is going to play will factor in more than what happened the previous game. It could be who we are playing against, whether it's back-to-back games, what the upcoming schedule is."
OK, but who's it gonna be, coach?
Well, the starter, Newsday reported, is told by Gordon "after the media leaves."