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Game Preview: Islanders vs Capitals

The Islanders open-up a six-game homestand as they host the Washington Capitals on Thursday

by Sasha Kandrach @KandrachSasha / NewYorkIslanders.com

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (22-10-4) VS. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (23-8-4)

7 PM | NASSAU COLISEUM

WATCH: MSG+ | MSG GO | NHL.TV

LISTEN: 88.7FM | 103.9FM | 1050AM


The New York Islanders return home for a six-game homestand as they host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

The Islanders and Capitals last met on March 16, where the Caps defeated the Islanders 3-1 at Capital One Arena. Paired with the two regulation losses to Washington at the end of January, the Islanders trail the season series 0-3-0. 

The Islanders ended the month of March on a four-game road trip in which they closed out their regular-season series against the Pittsburgh Penguins - going 2-4-2 - on Monday night with a 2-1 loss at PPG Paints Arena. The game also marked the fourth-straight occurrence where the Islanders were trailing following the first period.  

Matt Martin scored the Islanders only goal of the game with a power-play strike in the second period, while Semyon Varlamov manned the pipes and made 20 saves on 22 shots. 

"If we played like we did in the second and third [period], then we're fine," Head Coach Barry Trotz said of Monday's loss. "We just didn't come out. That's got to come from me and the leadership group. We played an easy game early. When you play an easy game early, you're going to feel not good about your game. We need a better start. We're not gifted enough where we can spot teams two pucks and then work our way back. We've been fortunate we've been able to do it a few times, but not enough. Not enough at all."

With the loss, the Islanders and Penguins are now tied for second place in the East Division with 48 points each. Washington is still leading the division with 50 points.  

The Capitals began their five-game Tri-State road trip with a 5-2 loss against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. Washington came out hot with two goals in the first period, but the Rangers scored five unanswered to pick up the win, including one shorthanded goal. T.J. Oshie (power play) and Nic Dowd lit the lamp for the Caps while Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves on 26 shots. 

ISLANDERS NOTES:

*Update: Trotz confirmed that Noah Dobson is likely to join the lineup tonight for the first time in eight games. 
 

"Dobson is good to go," Trotz said. "You'll probably see him in the lineup tonight."

•   The Islanders finished the month of March with an 11-4-0 record. Their 11 wins matched the previous record for wins in March dating back to the 1981-82 season.

•   Martin's goal was his sixth of the season and just the second power-play goal of his career and first since March 5, 2013.

•   Mathew Barzal recorded a primary assist to setup Martin's goal and increased his team-high point production of 28 points (10G, 18A). The 23-year-old center now has three points (1G, 2A) in his last two games.

•   Nick Leddy posted a secondary assist on Martin's goal. The Islanders defenseman leads the team with 24 assists, which are tied with Carolina's Dougie Hamilton for the third-most among d-men in the NHL. With the assist, Leddy also extended his point streak to three games with four assists in that span.

•   Varlamov made his 24th start of the season, while his record fell to 14-7-3. The Russian netminder has a 2.19 GAA and a .922 SV%.

•   Michael Dal Colle missed his second-straight game with a lower-body injury. Following Wednesday's practice, Trotz confirmed that Dal Colle will not be available to play against the Caps on Thursday.

•   Ross Johnston drew in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 26. The winger slotted in place of Kieffer Bellows - who was the initial player to fill Dal Colle's void - and skated alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom. Johnston played 10:50, took one penalty, fired off two shots and threw a game-high of six hits.

•   Brock Nelson skated in his 281st consecutive game and ranks fifth in franchise history for consecutive-games played. Nelson has the longest active ironman streak among the Islanders.

•   The Islanders gave up two-first period goals for the third-straight game, which marked the first time that the team has allowed at least two goals in three consecutive first periods since February 2018. The team is 14-1-2 when scoring first and are 8-9-2 when allowing the opening goal.

•   Despite going pointless in two-straight games, rookie winger Wahlstrom ranks third in goals scored by first-year players in the NHL with nine tallies through 29 games. Wahlstrom is two back of Minnesota's Kirill Kaprizov and Chicago's Pius Suter, who each have 11.

•   Noah Dobson joined the team for practice after not joining the team on their four-game road trip and skating on his own last week. The 21-year-old defenseman has missed the last eight games after being placed on the NHL's COVID Protocol list on March 14. Trotz confirmed that there's a possibility Dobson could make his return to the lineup against Washington.

"He skated, he skated fine," Trotz said. "He's been skating for a few days. I'll check with him tomorrow, if he's good to go. If he gives me the thumbs up, I'd assume he'll join us."

Video: Practice 3/31: Barry Trotz

CAPITALS NOTES:

*Update: Ilya Samsonov will start in goal for the Capitals. 

•   With the goal, Oshie extended his point streak to three games (2G, 3A) and scored his second goal in as many games. The veteran winger has totaled 25 points this season (9G, 16A) through 34 games.

•   Dowd scored his seventh goal of this year's campaign and now has nine points in 35 games.

•   With the primary assist on Oshie's goal, Nicklas Backstrom's point streak reached three games (1G, 2A). The Swedish winger leads the Caps in scoring with 37 points (13G, 24A) through 35 games.

•   Defenseman John Carlson posted a secondary assist on Oshie's goal to record his 22nd apple of the season and 28th point, which is tied with Vancouver's Quinn Hughes for the fourth most points among blueliners in the NHL. Carlson leads the Caps defense in scoring with 29 points (7G, 22A) through 35 games.

•   Vanecek made his 24th start of his rookie season while his record dropped to 14-6-3. The 25-year-old Czech native has a 2.73 GAA and a .907 SV%.

•   Lars Eller returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a lower-body injury. Eller totaled 10:05 and took one shot on goal. Eller skated alongside Jakub Vrana and Daniel Sprong.

•   Alexander Ovechkin's four-game goal streak - four goals and five points over that span - came to a halt as he went without a point on Tuesday night. The Caps captain leads the team with his 18 goal this season and has registered 30 points through 31 games.

•   Oshie's power play tally helped the team go 1-for-3 on their power-play opportunities. Washington's power play is ranked ninth overall in the NHL at 23.9%.

•   The Capitals penalty kill was 2-for-2 against the Rangers and is ranked 10th in the NHL at 81.3%.

•   Washington averages the third-highest goals for per game at 3.40 goals for.

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