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Game Preview: Islanders at Capitals

by Greg Picker / New York Islanders
Fresh off a win over the NHL’s top team, the Islanders will put their 19-3-0 Metropolitan Division record to the test this afternoon as they face the Washington Capitals in the nation’s capital.


Three different defensemen scored in the Isles’ 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, but today’s focus will be shutting down the Caps’ dynamic duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Ovechkin has four goals and an assist in three games against the Islanders this season, while Backstrom has one goal and four assists. The duo have a combined 14 points in Washington’s last three games – all wins over teams that currently occupy playoff positions.

Washington’s power play has been vital to the team’s success, currently sitting second in the NHL with a 24.4% conversion rate. The Caps finished 3-for-6 on the man advantage in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

The Caps hot power play will meet an improviung Islanders penalty kill, which has fought off 13 straight penalties over the Isles’ last five games. The Islanders are 4-1-0 over that stretch.

The Islanders’ shorthanded unit came up big in the team’s most recent game against the Caps, going a perfect four-for-four in the Isles 4-3 OT win on Dec. 29. Johnny Boychuk – who has goals in two straight games – was the hero that night, scoring an overtime winner before dropping to his knees in celebration in front of a sold out Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders placed Mikhail Grabovski (upper body) on injured reserve Friday, recalling center Kael Mouillierat from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Mouillireat has spent time playing alongside Colin McDonald this season and is expected to slot in between McDonald and Matt Martin.

In goal, Jaroslav Halak has a chance to set a single-season franchise record. Halak (32-12-0) is in a four-way tie with Billy Smith (1981-82), Chris Osgood (2001-02) and Rick DiPietro (2006-07) for the single-season win record. A win today vaults Halak into the top spot and uncharted territory for an Islanders goaltender.

Braden Holtby will likely be Halak’s counterpart, though neither coach has committed to a goalie. Holtby is the Capitals workhorse, playing a league-high 50 games this season. From Nov. 18 through Jan. 16, the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native played in 27 straight contests. His six shutouts this season are second in the league behind only Marc-Andre Fluery of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Isles and Caps battle Saturday for the final time this regular season, but this could be an early-round playoff matchup come April or perhaps even May.

Puck drop is set for 12:30 p.m. from Verizon Center.

New York Islanders
39-19-1 (79 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, T-1st in Eastern Conference)
18-12-1 road
Washington Capitals
32-17-10 (74 points - 3rd in Metropolitan Division, T-4th in Eastern Conference)
16-7-5 home
12:30  p.m.
Verizon Center

Washington, D.C.

Television:
MSG+
Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Islanders Recall Mouillierat (Feb. 20)
- Islanders 5, Predators 2 (Feb. 19)
- Islanders TV: Capuano (Feb. 19)
- Islanders TV: Leddy (Feb. 19)
- Nystrom's Last Lap (Feb. 19)
Islanders player to watch
Kael Mouillierat - Center

Kael Mouillierat is expected to make his NHL debut Saturday afternoon after being recalled by the Islanders on emergency basis Friday. The 27-year-old center currently leads the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in scoring with 40 points (18 g, 22a) in 51 games. Mouillierat is in his second stint in the Isles organization after playing for Bridgeport during the 2011-12 season. Last year, Mouillierat helped lead the St. John’s IceCaps to the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals.
Capitals player to watch
John Carlson - Defense

Sixth-year defenseman John Carlson is in a midst of a career season for the Caps. Carlson’s two-point night in a 5-4 win against the San Jose Sharks last week established a new career high for the Natick, MA native. Carlson has added a goal in each of his last two games to bring his season totals to 40 points (nine goals, 31 assists). He sits third on the team in points behind only Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin who are first and third respectively in NHL scoring.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
27 Anders Lee
91 John Tavares 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner51 Frans Nielsen86 Nikolay Kulemin
86 Nikolay Kulemin
84 Mikhail Grabovski 15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin
29 Brock Nelson 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
37 Brian Strait
3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey 11 Lubomir Visnovsky

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Washington Capitals previous game lines
Forwards
8 Alex Ovechkin - 19 Nicklas Backstrom - 65 Andre Burakovsky
90 Marcus Johansson - 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov - 20 Troy Brouwer
21 Brooks Laich - 16 Eric Fehr - 42 Joel Ward
83 Jay Beagle - 46 Michael Latta - 43 Tom Wilson

Defensemen
44 Brooks Orpik - 74 John Carlson
27 Karl Alzner - 2 Matt Niskanen
38 Jack Hillen - 52 Mike Green

Goaltenders
70 Braden Holtby
35 Justin Peters



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