ISLANDERS (26-16-6) at CAPITALS (35-9-4)
TV: NBCSN, SN360
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will return from a one-game suspension to play the New York Islanders on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360).
Ovechkin has reaped the benefits of an extended break. He sat out the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game because of a lower-body injury in the interest of his long term health.
"It's a good thing," Ovechkin said. "When you play the game it's more interesting than practicing. You're just going to be focused all the time. Of course it's going to be hard but that's why you practice in the summer, train in the summer, to get ready for this kind of stretch."
Over the next 69 days, the Capitals will play 34 games, with no more than a two-day break between games for the duration of that stretch. They come off an unusual stretch where they played two games in 13 days, thanks to a blizzard and the All-Star break, but coach Barry Trotz thinks the tight scheduling on the back end of the season will be beneficial heading into the Stanley Cup Playoff push.
"Hopefully we've learned a few things from the big break we've had here," Trotz said. "I think [now] we got a game under our belt, we'll be better and better each game."
Washington defenseman Taylor Chorney will be a game-time decision against the Islanders. Chorney left the game against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday with a flu-like illness, according to the Capitals.
Defenseman Aaron Ness was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis in case Chorney is unable to play.
"It was kind of like a quick bug but I was able to get some food and some fluids in me yesterday and I feel a lot better today," Chorney said. "I've been pretty fortunate of not getting sick over the last few years but that one came on pretty strong and it felt like the flu."
The Islanders held an optional skate Thursday and coach Jack Capuano said goalie Jaroslav Halak, who was a healthy scratch for New York's 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, will start.
Goaltender Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals. Trotz said Holtby could also start Saturday at the New Jersey Devils and Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Here are the projected lineups:
Mikhail Grabovski - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Brian Strait
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Marek Zidlicky
Injured: Johnny Boychuk (upper body)
Scratched: Steve Bernier, Scott Mayfield
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Zach Sill - Michael Latta
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov- Taylor Chorney
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), Jay Beagle (upper body), Marcus Johansson (upper body)
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev, Aaron Ness
Status report: Johansson skated briefly before the morning skate but did not participate. He will not play in either of the Capitals' two games this weekend but will travel with them on their three-game road trip next week.
Who's hot: Burakovsky has 11 points in his past 12 games … Tavares has five points in three games. Nelson has seven points in his past six games.