The best-of-seven series is now a best-of-three, as the Islanders and Capitals take a 2-2 series to Washington for a pivotal Game Five on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Game Four was a razor-close affair, as the Capitals pulled even in the series with a 2-1 overtime win. The loss stung, but the Islanders are taking a positive, confident approach into Game Five and are looking at the big picture – being tied in a series they have yet to trail in.
“We’re right where we expect to be,” Thomas Hickey said. “We knew it was going to be a long series, a tough series. We’re 2-2 and we’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve had the lead in most of the games. We’re excited, we’re looking forward to it.”
The Islanders may be without defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who left Tuesday’s game after taking a charge from Washington’s Tom Wilson. The team was vocal about their displeasure with the play, but know they have to stay disciplined and move forward if Visnovsky can’t play.
“We could hit a lot of guys like that too, but we stay within the rules and play the game the right way,” John Tavares said. “You can’t control [health]. You have to go out there with whoever is playing tomorrow and do the job.”
Griffin Reinhart or Matt Donovan appear to be the likely candidates to draw in, should Visnovsky not play. The Islanders recalled Reinhart on April 13, while Donovan has been with the team all season.
“Our defense has done a great job this year, but if Visnovsky and [Travis] Hamonic are both out, those are big holes to fill,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Dono has played hard for us, Griff has played a lot of games this year too. They practice hard, they understand the video, they understand the team concept of what we’re trying to do.”
As one Islander potentially comes out with injury, another may potentially go back in. Mikhail Grabovski is close to returning, according to Capuano, but who he plays with and what position – should he play – have not been determined. Grabovski was injured on Feb. 19, missing the last 27 games, but has been practicing with the team since April 6.
“We’re going to make some changes, there’s no question,” Capuano said. “Some line combinations, maybe personnel. Now it shifts back [to Washington] and they get the matchups they want.”
One area the Islanders want to improve is their power play, which is 0-for-10 in the series.
“We’ve had some shots, we just need to find a way to get those second and third opportunities,” Tavares said. “We need to generate a little bit more off some of the chances when we do shoot the puck.”
The Islanders penalty kill has killed off six-of-seven this series. As a team, the Islanders best defense against the league’s top regular-season power play has been prevention. The Islanders took one penalty Tuesday and are averaging fewer than two per game.
“We just have to go out there tomorrow play hard and leave it all out there on the ice,” Tavares said.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m.