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Capitals look to break even-strength goal drought

by Adam Vingan

ISLANDERS (16-6-0) at CAPITALS (9-8-4)


ARLINGTON, Va. -- In a rematch against the New York Islanders on Friday, the Washington Capitals will endeavor to bust a lengthy scoring drought.

It has been 130:32 since the Capitals scored an even-strength goal, with 120:57 of that time being played at even strength.

That shortage extends even further if limited to 5-on-5 play; Alex Ovechkin's game-winner in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 20, Washington's last even-strength goal, was scored at 4-on-4. The Capitals' 5-on-5 goalless skid currently stands at 136:13, according to

Such lapses in even-strength production are not unfamiliar to Washington, which has scored four 5-on-5 goals in its past six games and ranks 22nd with 37 after finishing 21st last season.

Despite the ongoing outage, the Capitals were encouraged by their play Wednesday in a 3-2 overtime loss, particularly with how they created traffic in front of Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forcing him to weave through a maze of bodies.

"I thought we had a lot better net presence [Wednesday]," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "It just seemed like we had one, two guys right in front of the blue paint a lot of the time. We had some point shots that the goalie didn't see, he made saves on that he didn't see, or we just missed the net. A few scrambles around the net too. That's one thing that we've tried to get better at."

"Actually I think we played great 5-on-5, especially in their zone," Ovechkin said. "We had one guy in front of the net most of the time. You can see when the D [has] the puck and they shoot it, it's always dangerous. We just have to continue to do [that] and the goals will come."

Another victory against the Capitals would give the Islanders their second home-and-home sweep of a Metropolitan Division rival in a week; New York defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 21 and 22. The Islanders have won five straight, 10 of 11 and are off to the best 22-game start in franchise history.

Here are the projected lineups:


Nikolay KuleminJohn TavaresKyle Okposo

Mikhail GrabovskiFrans NielsenJosh Bailey

Anders LeeBrock NelsonRyan Strome

Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyBrian Strait

Calvin de HaanTravis Hamonic

Thomas HickeyLubomir Visnovsky

Chad Johnson

Jaroslav Halak

Scratched: Cory Conacher, Matt Donovan

Injured: Michael Grabner (lower body), Eric Boulton (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Johnny Boychuk (upper body)


Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromTom Wilson

Marcus JohanssonAndre BurakovskyTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraJay BeagleJoel Ward

Brooks LaichEvgeny KuznetsovEric Fehr

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Jack HillenNate Schmidt

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Michael Latta, Liam O'Brien

Injured: Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Mike Green (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: Laich will return after missing 15 of the past 16 games with a left shoulder injury. Capitals coach Barry Trotz did not divulge where Laich would play other than to say he will slot in at "one of the left wing spots." ... Strait will replace Boychuk, who has an upper-body injury, according to Islanders coach Jack Capuano.

Who's hot: During his personal eight-game winning streak, Halak has a 1.21 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. … Ovechkin scored multiple power-play goals Wednesday for the 15th time in his career, most among active players.

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