Nov. 2 vs. New York Islanders at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7
New York Islanders 7-4-1
Washington Capitals 5-6-1
Back from their three-game tour of Western Canada in late October, the Caps make another quick stop at home on Thursday night to host the New York Islanders. The game is the fifth of six one-game homestands for Washington at the outset of the 2017-18 regular season.
Video: The Week Ahead | November 1
This marks the first time in Washington's franchise history that the team has had to play its first six home games as part of six one-game "homestands." So far, it hasn't worked out well. The Capitals posted an aggregate 61-15-6 record at home over the last two regular seasons, but after trouncing Montreal by a 6-1 count in their home opener on Oct. 7, the Caps have lost three straight games at home, all of them in regulation. It's the first time in nearly four years - since Nov. 20-29, 2013 - that the Caps have gone three straight home games without collecting so much as a point.
For the first time since they started the 1996-97 season with a 1-3 record in their first four home games at the old USAir Arena in Landover, the Caps have just two points to show for their first four home games.
"We haven't been very good at home," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We're 1-3. So we'll have to establish something here. I think having the last change will help a little bit. Sleeping in our own beds [will help] a little bit, hopefully. We have to make home a tough place to play again.
Video: Barry Trotz | November 1
"We've played some pretty good teams - we lost to [Pittsburgh], Toronto and Florida, and they've all been pretty decent. We've just got to make home a real tough place."
The Caps have scored a total of three goals in those three consecutive home losses.
Given the difficulty and the challenges of Washington's early season schedule - and not merely in terms of the opposition - getting through the month of October with a break-even or better mark would have been more than acceptable. What the Caps couldn't know is that they'd lose four players to injury in the season's first month. Even with that added hurdle, they narrowly missed breaking even for October, and would have done so had they been able to nurse a 1-1 game in the third period into overtime on Sunday night in Calgary.
Alas, the Caps fell to the Flames in regulation by a 2-1 count, and they conclude October with a 5-6-1 mark, their first month with a losing record since January, 2014 when they went 4-7-4.
Video: Rinkside Update | TJ Oshie
"That's why I was so disappointed in Calgary," says Trotz. [Goaltender Philipp Grubauer] gave us a chance to get a point there, and we messed it up. That was a point that I felt that we could have. And if we did, we would be .500 after the first 12 [games] with all of the things that have gone on. You'd probably say that would be all right, but we didn't get it."
Even with the loss in Calgary and the 1-2 Western road trip, the Caps own a respectable 4-3-1 road record. November is here now, and the Caps will play nine of 14 games at home this month. After playing eight of 12 on the road in October, the Caps will start November by playing eight of 12 at Capital One Arena. But that's only helpful if the Caps can rediscover what made them so dominant at home.
"It's definitely been a funky schedule with just the one game at home, and then back on the road," says Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik. "We are just kind of ping-ponging back and forth, and it's tough to get into any type of rhythm at home, which has usually been a hallmark of this team the last two or three years, when we've been really good at home. Hopefully the schedule starts to balance itself out a little bit here.
"But we're at a point now where, once you get to November, teams start to talk a lot about finding your identity and things like that. You don't have much longer to find it. You've got to get going, and especially with as competitive as our division and conference is going to be, you've really got to get going here in November and not drop any points where you're confused about how you're supposed to be playing. We do have some young guys, but a lot of the nights those guys haven't been our problem. I think the veterans have got to step it up here for us."
Video: Alex Ovechkin | October 31
As November dawns, the Caps are looking up at most of the teams in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference standings. That includes the Islanders, who are sitting in third place in the Metro standings on the morning of Nov. 1.
The Islanders played four of their first six games on the road, and got off to an uneven 2-3-1 start. But the Isles have won two of their last three road games, and they've earned at least a point in every one of their home games to date (4-0-1). Overall, the Islanders have won five of their last six games, and they've scored 29 goals in those six contests. New York has netted at least four goals in each of its last five games.
Islanders captain John Tavares is in the final season of his contract, and the 27-year-old would become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he and the Islanders aren't able to come to terms on a contract extension between now and then. This is Tavares' ninth season in the NHL - he is slated to play in his 600th career game on Thursday in Washington - but the Islanders have made the playoffs just three times in Tavares' previous eight seasons, winning just one series along the way.
Tavares is off to a torrid start with 11 goals - including eight at even strength - and 15 points in his first dozen games. As November gets underway, he is tied for sixth in the league's scoring race. Tavares has piled up nine goals in his last five games.
The Isles have been getting scoring from others as well. Josh Bailey is just behind Tavares in the scoring race with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) and Anders Lee has a dozen points (six goals, six assists) in as many games. Ten different Islanders have scored two or more goals so far in the young season; the Caps have seven such players.