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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Capitals

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders got a belated holiday present Sunday afternoon.  The team activated goaltender Jaroslav Halak off injured reserve before Sunday’s practice and he will be ready to play if called upon tonight against the Washington Capitals (7:00 p.m.).

“He had a real good practice here today and he seems to be ready to go for us,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “If things go well there’s a great chance that he could be back in.”

Halak missed two games with a lower-body injury, including Saturday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Capuano and company took a sober second look at Saturday’s loss and maintained that there was a lot of good to take away from the disappointing defeat.

“We realize that a couple parts of our game need to be cleaned up a bit, but we’re not far off,” John Tavares said. “We are doing some good things. There are just a couple of details in our game that have slipped over the last couple of games and we know we need to be better at.”

Tavares scored twice against the Sabres, extending his point streak to three games (three goals, one assist). He and linemate Kyle Okposo have found chemistry with Josh Bailey since Bailey was promoted to the top line.

“Josh thinks the game very well, he sees the ice very well,” Tavares said. “He’s doing a great job along the boards, winning a lot of battles, creating time and space for himself and for me and Kyle.”

Bailey had two assists Saturday, feeding Tavares for an easy tap-in on his second goal. He also screened Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth on Nick Leddy’s first-period tally.

“I’ve just been trying to play hard, just keep working and I figured things would start going in,” Bailey said. “The more we play together, the more comfortable we get. Each game we’ve gotten better which is a good sign.”

The Capitals enter the game on the heels of a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. Goaltender Braden Holtby made 31 saves for his third shutout of the season and second in his last four games. Holtby is 4-1 in his last five starts and is 1-0-1 against the Islanders this season, losing 3-2 on Nov. 26 at Nassau Coliseum.

Offensively, the Capitals are led by Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. Backstrom leads the Capitals in assists (25) and points (36), while Ovechkin leads the team with 16 goals. Defenseman John Carlson has emerged as an offensive threat this season with 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 35 games, tied for third amongst NHL defensemen.

The Islanders and Capitals play their last regular-season meeting at the Coliseum tonight at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
23-11-1 (47 points – 2nd in Metropolitan Division, T-2nd in Eastern Conference)
13-4-0 home
Washington Capitals
18-11-6 (42 points - T-3rd in Metropolitan Division, T-8th in Eastern Conference)
11-6-2 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum

Uniondale, NY

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:
- Sabres 4, Islanders 3 (SO) (Dec. 27)
- Islanders TV: Bailey
(Dec. 28)
- Islanders TV: Capuano (Dec. 28)
- Islanders TV: Tavares (Dec. 28)
Islanders player to watch
Josh Bailey - Left Wing

Josh Bailey has found a home on the Islanders top line, contributing three assists in his last three games alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Bailey was promoted to the first line mid-game on Dec. 15 against the New Jersey Devils. Since then, Bailey has three points, Tavares (three goals, one assist) and Okposo (one goal, three assists) each have four. Bailey has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 24 games this season.
Capitals player to watch
Nicklas Backstrom - Center

Backstrom leads the Capitals with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 35 games this season. The Swedish center is one of the NHL’s premier playmakers and has the fifth-most helpers in the league. Backstrom has 11 multi-point games this season, including a hat trick against Tampa Bay on Dec. 13 and a four-point night against New Jersey on Dec. 20. Backstrom has three assists in two games against the Isles this season.
New York Islanders previous game lines
12 Josh Bailey
91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
84 Mikhail Grabovski51 Frans Nielsen86 Nikolay Kulemin
27 Anders Lee
29 Brock Nelson 18 Ryan Strome
17 Matt Martin
53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck


2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
44 Calvin de Haan
3 Travis Hamonic
11 Lubomir Visnovsky 11 Thomas Hickey

60 Kevin Poulin
30 Chad Johnson
Washington Capitals previous game lines
25 Jason Chimera - 19 Nicklas Backstrom - 8 Alex Ovechkin
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

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

70 Braden Holtby
35 Justin Peters

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