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The way the New York Islanders are piling up losses, the most encouraging news they've heard in a while is that goaltender Rick DiPietro is close to returning.

That won't help them on Tuesday night, though, when they host a red-hot Washington Capitals club that's still winning games with a rookie in net.

New York (10-18-2) returns to Nassau Coliseum following an 0-4-0 road trip that extended its overall losing streak to six. The Islanders fell 3-1 to Columbus on Saturday.

"It's tough but we have got to try to keep it positive and try to do the things that we know that work for us," left wing Sean Bergenheim said. "We can't be too negative. We have to keep on going. We can't quit here."

DiPietro, who went 0-2-0 in three starts before having arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, is scheduled to play in approximately a week.

In DiPietro's absence, Joey MacDonald has gone 8-12-2 with a 3.14 goals-against average. Facing the Blue Jackets on Saturday, MacDonald stopped 32 of 35 shots and lost for the seventh time in eight starts.

He made 42 saves in a 5-2 loss to Washington (18-10-3) on Dec. 4. That defeat began the Islanders' losing streak - their second six-game skid this season.

While Washington is averaging 3.0 goals during a 5-1-0 stretch, the Islanders - among the league's lowest scoring teams with 2.47 goals per game - have been outscored 44-20 while losing eight of their last nine.

Doug Weight, who had his five-game point streak snapped against Columbus, has been one of the most consistent threats for the Islanders. With a team-leading 21 assists and 27 points, the 37-year-old center is four points away from becoming the 73rd player in NHL history to reach 1,000.

In his last 10 games against Washington, Weight has one goal and 12 assists.

The Capitals are coming off a 2-1 win over Montreal on Saturday - their third straight victory.

With backup goalie Jose Theodore sidelined with a hip flexor injury and starter Brent Johnson dealing with a sore hip, 20-year-old Simeon Varlamov stopped 32 of 33 shots in his NHL debut as Washington improved to 6-9-2 away from the Verizon Center.

Varlamov was 10-3-0 with a 2.34 GAA at AHL Hersey before joining the Caps.

"He won the game for us tonight," said Alex Ovechkin, who assisted on Nicklas Backstrom's first-period power-play goal.

Ovechkin, who has a team-leading 23 assists and is third in the NHL with 40 points, had a goal and two assists in the Caps' first meeting with the Islanders this season.

Center Michael Nylander scored the winner against the Canadiens with 3:32 remaining - his first goal since Oct. 16 against Pittsburgh.

"I just tried to get it on the net because (Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak) was off his post a bit," said Nylander, who has one point in each of his last five games visiting the Islanders.

Alexander Semin added an assist against Montreal, giving him a point in three straight games following a 12-game absence with a back injury. Semin is third on Washington with 30 points.

The Caps have lost six of their last seven at Nassau Coliseum.

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