The Caps are back home again, but only for one night. Again. Thursday's game against the New York Islanders is the team's fifth straight one-game homestand to start the season, and there is one more coming. After taking on the Isles tonight, the Caps head to Boston for a Saturday night date with the Bruins. Then it's back home for one more game against Arizona on Monday, and off to Buffalo for the second of back-to-backs on Tuesday. Only after they return from Buffalo do the Caps finally play consecutive home dates, hosting Pittsburgh on Nov. 10 and Edmonton on Nov. 12.
The jagged and disjointed schedule combined with some early season injuries and a plethora of new faces in the lineup left the Caps with a 5-6-1 record for October, but more troubling is the team's 1-3 record at home. The Caps drubbed Montreal 6-1 in their home opener at Capital One Arena on Oct. 7, but have scored a grand total of just three goals in losing three straight home games since.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 2
"To me this is a big game," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We've got to start getting some traction at home here. We didn't get off to a good start at home here in terms of our record, and we need to build our record at home.
"Our road record has actually been pretty good. We're .500 on the road with the number of people we've had out, that's pretty good. Where we need to be really good is at home here. We need to get our fans into it, and we need to play our game that we need to play for success."
Over the last two seasons, the Caps have forged an impressive 61-15-6 record during the regular season at home. Coming into tonight, the Caps have dropped three straight at home for the first time since Nov. 20-29, 2013.
"I think our identity over the last couple of years is that this has been a very hard rink [for the opposition] to play in," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "We're fast we come out hard, play the game the right way and make it hard for teams to come in and take a point.
"We've got to get that identity back. I think everybody likes playing at home; it's a great rink with a great atmosphere. I'm sure it will be the same tonight, and we want to give them something to cheer about. We want to come out of the gates flying and with high energy, and make it tough for the other team to come into this rink and put a good foot forward."
Video: Rinkside Update | Tom Wilson | November 2
Roster/Lineup Shuffle - The Caps made a roster move on Thursday morning, ahead of the game against the Isles. Washington sent winger Anthony Peluso to AHL Hershey and recalled winger Liam O'Brien from the Bears. Peluso played in two games with the Caps on the team's just-completed Western Canada road trip.
"He's playing well," says Trotz of O'Brien. "He has elevated his game. He is a guy who early in training camp was really impressive. He really put in a lot of work physically. You could tell he put in a lot of work with some of the skill aspects and his skating and all that. He put in a tremendous amount of work and I thought he had a really good start to training camp, and then he got hurt.
"We got to the end of training camp and tried to get him back in, and in some ways he got short-changed a little bit because we were trying to select our roster, and we were getting down to the nitty gritty and we had some decisions to make. He sort of got short-changed because of the injury, and he went down there [to Hershey] and has played well.
"He is playing on both special teams, displaying the physical aspect to his game, he is having some production, and in talking to [general manager Brian MacLellan] and talking to [Hershey coach] Troy Mann, we thought we'd make a switch and he seemed like the most logical [candidate]."
Nathan Walker gets back into the lineup tonight for Washington. Walker has played in only four of the Caps' first dozen games this season, and he has skated in only two of the team's last nine contests.
It's never easy to move in and out of the lineup, but one way to build some staying power might be in finding the back of the net. Trotz remarked this morning that he needs more offense from his bottom six.
"We're going to need some production from the bottom part of our lineup," says Trotz. "We really do. We don't have a whole lot there from our bottom six forwards. I think we only have 13 or 14 points, maybe. But we're going to sneed some of that if we're going to sustain a good competitive level for us.
"I think the defensive part of our game is starting to come around. Our decision making has to come around a little bit in terms of puck management and that, but I think the next step for us is getting really consistent on both sides of the puck, and getting contributions through the lineup. That will go a long way for us to have success."
Defenseman Taylor Chorney also draws back into the Washington lineup tonight after a one-game absence; Aaron Ness suited up for Sunday's game against the Flames in Calgary. Chorney had appeared in five straight games for the Caps before sitting out against the Flames.
Video: Barry Trotz Pregame | November 2
Coming In Hot - The Islanders came out of the gates somewhat slowly this season, going 2-3-1 in their first six games. But they've won five of six since, scoring 29 goals in those last half-dozen games.
New York has connected on five of its last 10 power play opportunities, and Isles captain John Tavares has piled up 11 goals in 10 games, with nine of those coming in the team's last five games.
"They've got a lot of confidence, they're playing areal good team game, and they're getting contributions through their whole lineup right now," says Trotz of the Islanders. "John Tavares has elevated his game. He's got a couple hat tricks lately and is playing really well.
"Their power play had been a little bit stagnant; they were having some struggles with it early but it looks like it has turned a corner for them. So they're playing well, They've got a deep team, they've got a good balance of speed and skill, and they're deep. They've got a little bit of bite to their game with the [Cal] Clutterbucks and [Casey] Cizikas and those guys. They're a good hockey team."
In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the net tonight for Washington. Holtby won his last start, a 5-2 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton on Saturday night. On the season, Holtby is 5-3-0 with a 2.76 GAA and a .919 save pct. Lifetime against the Islanders, Holtby is 12-3-3 in 18 career appearances, with a 2.28 GAA and a .925 save pct.
Former Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak gets the start in goal tonight for the Islanders. New York started the season with a fairly even split between Halak and Thomas Greiss in the nets, but Halak has had the hotter hand and he is getting a third straight start tonight as a result.
Halak is 5-2-0 on the season with a 2.66 GAA and a .916 save pct. Lifetime against the Capitals, he is 8-7-0 with a shutout, a 2.66 GAA and a .907 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Caps and the Islanders to look on Thursday night when they take to the ice at Capital One Arena for the first of their four meetings this season:
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 25-Smith-Pelly
18-Stephenson, 20-Eller, 43-Wilson
79-Walker, 83-Beagle, 39-Chiasson
2-Niskanen (upper body, week-to-week)
10-Connolly (upper body)
65-Burakovsky (upper body, week-to-week)
91-Graovac (upper body, week-to-week)
27-Lee, 91-Tavares, 12-Bailey
16-Ladd, 13-Barzal, 7-Eberle
29-Nelson, 72-Beauvillier, 25-Chimera
86-Kulemin, 53-Cizikas, 15-Clutterbuck
44-de Haan, 4-Seidenberg
11-Prince (lower body)
50-Pelech (day-to-day, undisclosed)