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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Capitals

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders caught the attention of the mainstream media over their past 10 games and they will certainly have the attention of the Washington Capitals tonight at Nassau Coliseum.


The Islanders (15-6-0) have won nine of their last 10 contests and have shot to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings. Currently tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins with 28 points, the Islanders are one of the teams to beat in the division.

“We’re not going to surprise anybody,” Matt Martin said. “Everyone knows we’re a good hockey team now and we’re tied for first place. Everyone’s trying to catch us. We want to put teams further and further behind us and keep winning hockey games. We’re not going to surprise anyone, teams are going to be ready to play us and we have to be ready to play them too.”

The Islanders are currently exorcising demons from season’s past, faring far better at home and against divisional opponents at the quarter mark. The Islanders are 6-1-0 vs. the Metro and 7-2-0 at Nassau Coliseum this season, compared to sub .500 records last year.

Still, Head Coach Jack Capuano said his team isn’t looking past anyone.

“We’re a humble group,” Capuano said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. Every night is a battle, there’s a lot of parity in this league. We just want to play the right way. I like the leadership and accountability around the guys and we’re just focusing day by day on the task at hand.”

The Islanders have been firing on all cylinders during their recent run. The offense has scored four or more goals in five of their last seven contests and has the third most goals (69) in the Eastern Conference. Defensively, the Islanders have held some of the league’s top forwards at bay. Over the past four games, the Islanders held Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby (two games) and NHL-leading scorer Jakub Voracek pointless.

Tonight the task will be shutting down Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

“To me, they are one of the most high-powered teams in the league,” Capuano said. “They’ve always been and we’ve had some pretty good games against these guys.”

In goal, Jaroslav Halak is riding a seven-game winning streak and is coming off of a 21-save shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. Capuano hasn’t named a starter, but with three shutouts in six games, Halak is likely between the pipes to face his former team. Halak played 12 games for the Capitals last season.

The Capitals may answer Halak with Braden Holtby, who has been lights out in his last six games posting a 1.67 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. Holtby is 5-1-1 lifetime against the Islanders.
 
The Capitals may be without Ovechkin tonight, as the captain left practice yesterday with an upper-body tweak. Head Coach Barry Trotz said Ovechkin will make the trip to Long Island and that he left practice for precautionary reasons. Ovechkin’s absence would be an advantage for the Islanders, as he has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in his last 11 games.

This is the first meeting between the teams this season, so the Islanders will get their first-look at a revamped Capitals blue line. Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik both signed lengthy deals this offseason, jumping ship from the rival Penguins. Mike Green (upper body) did not practice Tuesday and will not play Wednesday.

The Islanders and Capitals kick off a home-and-home set tonight at 7 p.m.
New York Islanders
15-6-0 (30 points – T-1st in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
7-2-0 home
Washington Capitals
9-8-3 (21 points - 4th in Metropolitan Division, 10th in Eastern Conference)
5-4-0 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, NY

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 Prospect Report (Nov. 25)
- Halak Steps Up (Nov. 25)
- Islanders-Canucks Trade (Nov. 25)
- Islanders 1, Flyers 0  (Nov. 24)
- Isles TV: Capuano, Halak, Nelson, Tavares (Nov. 24)


What's Happening at the Coliseum:

- Lower Lobby Opens 5:00 p.m. Doors Open 5:45 p.m.
- Islanders Food Drive

Islanders player to watch
Jaroslav Halak - Goaltender

Jaroslav Halak is coming off a 21-save shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers and has won seven straight games. Halak is the first Islanders goalie to win seven straight since 2006 and he is one win shy of matching a personal record, set in 2012. The Islanders goaltender has three shutouts in his last six games and owns a 10-4 record, 2.23 goals against average and a .922 save percentage this season.
Capitals player to watch
Braden Holtby - Goaltender

Braden Holtby is finding his rhythm in goal for the Capitals. In his last six games, Holtby is 4-2 with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. Holtby, who has played his entire career with the Capitals, is 5-1-1 lifetime against the Islanders with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. The Capitals goaltender is 7-5-2 this season with a 2.25 GAA and a .915 SV%.
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
86 Nikolay Kulemin
91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Mikhail Grabovski51 Frans Nielsen12 Josh Bailey
27 Anders Lee
29 Brock Nelson 18 Ryan Strome
17 Matt Martin
– 
53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
37 Brian Strait
3 Travis Hamonic
46 Matt Donovan – 11 Lubomir Visnovsky

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

Defensemen
44 Brooks Orpik - 74 John Carlson
27 Karl Alzner - 2 Matt Niskanen
88 Nate Schmidt - 38 Jack Hillen

Goaltenders
70 Braden Holtby
35 Justin Peters


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