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Capitals and Isles open home-and-home series

by John Kreiser
CAPITALS (32-20-10) at ISLANDERS (23-31-8)


Last 10 -- Washington 5-5-0; New York 6-3-1

Season series -- It's the third of four meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals, who finish a home-and-home series at the Verizon Center on Tuesday. Washington won the first two games by the same score -- 2-1. The Caps are 9-0-1 in the last 10 meetings.

Big story -- Expect the Caps to come out flying after they were embarrassed at home by the Rangers in a 6-0 loss on Friday. Not only have they dominated the Isles in recent years, but they'll be playing against a group of young defenseman that includes four rookies and only one player with more than two seasons in the NHL.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- The Caps came home after winning three of their last four on a tough road trip -- and fell flat against the Rangers in a game that had the Verizon Center crowd booing. Coach Bruce Boudreau said the fans had every right to voice their displeasure.

"I'm not happy. Our fans deserve better," Boudreau said. "We deserve to get booed. It's just not acceptable and it's embarrassing."

Islanders -- With the playoffs not a realistic hope, the Islanders have been playing free and easy, despite an unending series of injuries. They forced OT in Philadelphia by rallying for a pair of third-period goals before losing 4-3 and beat little resemblance to the team that lost 20 of 21 from late October to mid-December.

"We've just really come together," forward Kyle Okposo said Friday. "We're sticking up for one another and we're doing the little things right. We're getting pucks out of the defensive zone and we're getting pucks in the net most of the time. We're playing well in the offensive zone and we're playing responsible defensively as well."

Who's hot -- Isles forward Matt Moulson has 6 goals in his last four games. Both Moulson and Michael Grabner have 10 goals this month.

Injury report -- Mike Green's return from a head injury and the flu didn't last long. He was hit hard by the Rangers' Derek Stepan early in the first period on Friday appeared to suffer a hear injury and didn't return. Green didn't make the trip to the Island. Washington is also without forward Eric Fehr (shoulder) and defenseman Tom Poti (lower body). … The Islanders are without a slew of regulars; the latest losses are on the blue line, with Radek Martinek (lower body) and Milan Jurcina (groin) going down this week.

Stat pack -- Alex Ovechkin has 14 goals and nine assists in 20 career meetings with the Islanders. … New York's John Tavares has 52 points, two short of his total for all of last season.

Puck drop -- The Caps aren't scoring the way they have in the past, but Isles coach Jack Capuano isn't anticipating an easy night for his young defense.

"Alex Ovechkin is going to get his chances," Capuano said Friday. "He's a great player, just like Nicklas Backstrom and a lot of the other guys that they have. But we have to worry about what we have to do defensively and hopefully if we defend properly, then we'll get offensive chances."

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