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Capitals must rebound against red-hot Islanders

by John Kreiser

CAPITALS (34-30-13) at ISLANDERS (31-35-10)

TV: CSN-DC; MSG PLUS

Last 10: Washington 4-3-3; New York 7-2-1

Season series: The Washington Capitals have won two of three games against the New York Islanders, including a 3-2 shootout victory in their previous visit to Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 30.

Big story: It's about 30 miles from the Prudential Center to Nassau Coliseum, but the trip must have seemed a lot longer than that to the Capitals on Friday night after a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils dealt another blow to Washington's hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's a quick turnaround against a rookie-filled Islanders team that is on its hottest streak of the season and has been off since a 2-1 road victory against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington is starting to run out of time. The Capitals stayed four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference when they lost to the Devils.

Alex Ovechkin gave Washington the lead when he scored his NHL-high 49th goal of the season midway through the first period. But the Capitals couldn't score again, and a goal by New Jersey's Ryan Carter with less than five minutes left in regulation cost Washington two much-needed points and sent them to Long Island on an 0-3-2 slide.

The Capitals can't afford a loss to the Islanders, who are all but certain to finish last in the Metropolitan Division.

"It's all about the points," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "It's disappointing we couldn't pull it off, at least one point (Friday). I think it's important that we really dig down and make sure we get those two points [Saturday]. I mean, we have to."

Islanders: Despite playing without their two best forwards, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, New York is enjoying its best stretch of the season. Dressing lineups that include as many as 10 rookies, the Islanders come into the game on a 5-0-1 run following back-to-back wins against the Florida Panthers and the Senators.

Tavares reminded his teammates earlier this week not to be fooled because they're playing well after being eliminated from the playoff race. Forward Josh Bailey agreed.

"Obviously he's right when he says that," Bailey told Newsday. "I think none of us are happy about it. But it's the position we've got ourselves in. Really, the only option is to keep moving forward and keep working."

Who's hot: Backstrom set up Ovechkin's goal in New Jersey and has five points in his past five games. … Bailey had a goal and an assist in the wins against Florida and Ottawa, giving him five points in three games.

Injury report: Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) and forwards Brooks Laich (groin) and Aaron Volpatti (lower body) are out. … Tavares (knee) is gone for the season; Okposo (lower body) could return. Forward Michael Grabner (concussion) will play for the first time since March 10. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) is out.

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