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Islanders begin road trip against Capitals

Monday, 03.25.2013 / 6:52 PM

ISLANDERS (14-15-3) at CAPITALS (15-16-1)

TV: MSG PLUS, CSN-DC

Last 10: Washington 5-5-0; New York 5-4-1

Season series: The Islanders won the lone meeting this season, 5-2 on March 9 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. These teams face each other at Verizon Center again in nine days.

Big story: The Capitals have won three in a row and five of seven to climb the closest they’ve been to a playoff spot all season, while the Islanders ended a three-game losing streak Sunday and could move ahead of Washington into 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

Team scope:

Islanders: After dropping three straight games to start a critical homestand, New York salvaged a win against last-place Florida two days ago. Holding leads and being outplayed in the third period has been a big problem for the Islanders, but they had little trouble with the Panthers.

Now the Islanders are back on the road, and they are 8-4-1 away from Long Island.

"We needed a win," center John Tavares told the team's website. "Games are starting to quickly tick down and we need the wins. It's good to finish it the right way and get ready for a big road trip."

Capitals: Washington went on a critical four-game road trip, and after playing well in defeat in Pittsburgh, the Capitals grabbed six much-needed points with two wins against Winnipeg and one against the New York Rangers -- the team’s first road win against a non-Southeast Division team this season.

Now the Capitals have a chance to be within three points of the division lead or level with one or more teams at 33 points -- which the eighth-place Rangers have now -- if they can win a fourth straight contest for the first time this season.

“Most important thing is everybody’s healthy,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We can play all four of our forward lines. The system is working, and goalies play well, D play well, forwards play well. We just have to continue to do it.”

Who’s hot: New York goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has two shutouts in his last five games and March has been his best statistical month of the season (6-3-1, .908 save percentage, 2.47 goals-against average). No one is hotter than Ovechkin right now, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week Monday after collecting five goals and eight points in the past four games.

Injury report: The Islanders will be without forward David Ullstrom (groin) and defenseman Brian Strait (ankle). … Washington is still likely to be without a trio of defensemen -- John Erskine (upper body), Tom Poti (back) and Tomas Kundratek (knee). Forward Eric Fehr (undisclosed) could possibly join them.

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