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Posted On Wednesday, 04.22.2015 / 1:26 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Capitals-Islanders series blog

Islanders forward Grabovski says he's ready to return

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders forward Mikhail Grabovski hasn't played in more than two months, but he deemed himself ready when the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals resumes Thursday.

Grabovski, who sustained a concussion in a game against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 19, has been skating for several weeks and could return to action for Game 5 at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC).

"I feel good right now," Grabovski said after participating in an optional skate at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. "I've had a good three months of skating. I don't know exactly what the decision is. Personally, I'm ready to go, but they need to talk to doctors and the coach, all together about me."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.22.2015 / 12:14 AM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Capitals-Islanders series blog

Islanders likely to make lineup changes for Game 5

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After watching the power play fail to convert three times in the second period Tuesday, New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano said to expect changes to the lineup in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

The Capitals took three minor penalties before the midway point of the second period, but New York came up empty and lost 2-1 at Nassau Coliseum when Nicklas Backstrom scored at 11:09 of overtime.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 and shifts to Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC).

"I think guys know [it's] probably time for a change," Capuano said. "Maybe guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit. You can see the energy and the confidence and the swagger that those guys play with, and we need to get more.

"Our guys are giving it everything they have, but at the end of the day your best players have got to be your best players. They have been all season long, but for whatever reason right now, offensively we've got to get a little bit more."

Posted On Sunday, 04.19.2015 / 5:43 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Capitals-Islanders series blog

Boychuk's sacrifice helps Islanders to Game 3 victory

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Holding a one-goal lead late in the second period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders found themselves in a difficult situation.

Defenseman Brian Strait was sent to the penalty box with 1:20 left for high sticking Capitals forward Jay Beagle. Washington, which boasts one of the more dangerous power plays in the NHL led by 53-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, was handed a tremendous opportunity to tie the game before the second intermission.

But Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk would have none of it.

Boychuk blocked three shots from Ovechkin near the left circle, then managed to swat the puck out of the Islanders zone while falling down to help keep New York in front heading into the third period.

The Islanders gave up the lead in the third, but went ahead in this best-of-7 series when John Tavares scored 15 seconds into overtime for a 2-1 win. Should they go on to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 1993, some may point to the effort Boychuk gave on that sequence in the second period as a pivotal moment.

Posted On Saturday, 04.18.2015 / 6:25 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Capitals-Islanders series blog

Young defenseman Reinhart an option for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders defenseman Griffin Reinhart spent the majority of the season with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League, but he may soon get his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Reinhart, who was recalled prior to the start of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, practiced with the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday and remains an option for coach Jack Capuano, who is trying to fill the void left by injured defenseman Travis Hamonic.

The fourth player selected at the 2012 NHL Draft, Reinhart helped the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League win the Memorial Cup last spring when he had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 21 playoff games. In his first professional season, Reinhart (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) had seven goals and 15 assists in 59 AHL games. He had one assist in eight games for the Islanders at the start of this season.

Reinhart, asked if he feels ready to step in and contribute, said, "I think so. I think I've done a good job of it this year. Playoffs is always the time of year where I think I play my best hockey. I've done well in the playoffs my previous three years in junior. It's clearly a big step up in the NHL, but it'd be something I'm up for the task though."

Posted On Saturday, 04.18.2015 / 5:39 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - Capitals-Islanders series blog

Goalie Holtby expects to start Game 3 for Capitals

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby practiced Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, said he felt fine on the ice, and didn't see a reason he wouldn't start Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders on Sunday (12 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

"I don't think there will be any questions," said Holtby, who did not play Game 2 on Friday because he was ill.

Posted On Tuesday, 03.24.2015 / 1:47 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Wild at Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek had a choice to make last season: Sign a long-term contract to stay with the New York Islanders, who paid a steep price to acquire him in a trade the previous fall, or keep open the chance to return to the state where he played college hockey for the University of Minnesota.

Some would have thought the Islanders' upcoming move to Brooklyn would have been a selling point during the negotiation process. Instead, it was leaving Nassau County that helped Vanek make up his mind. When he opted not to sign with the Islanders, they traded him to the Montreal Canadiens in March 2014. Vanek then signed a three-year deal with Minnesota on July 1.

"It was close in February [2014] and I thought about it long and hard," Vanek said at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday. "There was two factors; I made a choice that I really wanted to go to free agency. But after being here for a while I loved it here.

"The one thing I didn't like was the move to Brooklyn. I think if the rink would have been built here, it should be here on the island. There was probably a good chance I still would be here."

Posted On Saturday, 02.14.2015 / 12:07 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano has tried multiple players at left wing on his top line, looking for a perfect complement alongside center John Tavares.

He may have finally found the solution.

With right wing Kyle Okposo out because of an upper-body injury, Capuano shifted Josh Bailey to that side and placed rookie Anders Lee on the left. Lee has five goals since the All-Star break and with 18 goals this season has emerged as a candidate for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

"Obviously things have been going really well," Lee said Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders will play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET, MSG+, FS-O). "It's a tribute to the guys I've been playing with and the success we've had throughout the whole year. As long as we're winning and keep things rolling, it's been fun to combo those things up."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.27.2015 / 12:38 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Rangers at Islanders

The New York Islanders entered the All-Star break atop the Metropolitan Division, but they begin the second half of their season against the New York Rangers at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday without right wing Kyle Okposo.

The Islanders (31-14-1) will be without Okposo, who has 44 points in 46 games, for the next 6-8 weeks because of an upper-body injury, the team announced after practice Monday. Okposo was placed on injured reserve Tuesday retroactive to Jan. 19.

"It's a huge loss … [he's] one of our leaders and certainly brings so much to the table, not only his goal-scoring and his offensive ability, but he just works so hard on his game and sets an example in so many ways," center John Tavares said of Okposo. "He's just a bull on the puck and on the wall and he's done a lot of gritty things too. He's blocked a lot of shots for us this year and playing a lot of minutes.

"It gives some guys some more opportunity … [they've] got to look forward to that and try to grasp that."

Posted On Saturday, 01.03.2015 / 2:19 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Sabres at Rangers

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle missed practice Friday for personal reasons but is expected to play against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Boyle was one of a handful of Rangers who participated in an optional morning skate and told reporters afterward that he was ready to go.

"Something personal came up and I had to take care of it," Boyle said. "It was a tough couple of days but we'll get through it.

"I've been feeling better I think in the last handful of games than I have in a while. But I'm playing the way that I need to play in order for this team to win and that's keeping it simple, so it's a little bit different than what I'm used to. But you can't argue with nine wins in 10 games."

The Rangers (20-11-4) saw their eight-game winning streak end last Monday at the Dallas Stars in a 3-2 loss, but they bounced back with a 5-2 win at the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Boyle entered that game with assists in three straight games but did not register a point against the Panthers.

Posted On Thursday, 01.01.2015 / 6:09 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Memorable day for Capitals owner Leonsis

WASHINGTON -- After months of preparation, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis saw a dream come to fruition Thursday: the Capitals hosted, and more importantly, won the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Leonsis was all smiles in the Capitals' dressing room at Nationals Park after Troy Brouwer's goal with 12.9 seconds remaining in the third period gave Washington a 3-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a raucous crowd of 42,832.

"I knew that our fans would fill the stands, be a sea of red," Leonsis said. "I knew that the NHL really has their execution of this event down. And we were good hosts. We spent a lot of time, I personally spent a lot of time, walking around the building. I saw all the care over every detail."

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— Ducks forward Ryan Kesler after signing a six-year extension with Anaheim this past July