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Capitals not taking Islanders lightly in division battle

by Adam Vingan

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Within the confines of the Metropolitan Division space is at a premium.

Just four points separate second place from seventh place and the Washington Capitals, currently in sixth place, have not done themselves any favors recently.

The Capitals are winless in six straight intra-divisional games (0-5-1), their longest such streak since November 2007 when they failed to earn a win in seven straight games (0-6-1) against Southeast Division opponents.

Washington's next opportunity to earn its first Metropolitan Division victory since Dec. 27 comes Tuesday against the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) who, despite entering the game in last place in the division and on a five-game winless streak, are by no means out of the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

"[When] we talked about the Islanders, first thing I said out of my mouth is, 'Ignore the standings. Ignore a lot of their statistics because they've played a lot better lately,'" Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "It is a Metro game. We need the points, they need the points.

"If you look at our last five games against them they've been really good hockey games. Both teams have played really well so I expect that kind of game [Tuesday]. It's going to be a good skating, back-and-forth game. That's what we've played against them lately."

Washington will be without defenseman Mike Green for the third consecutive game due to a concussion. According to Oates it is possible Green will not play again before the NHL breaks for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. After Tuesday the Capitals play twice more before the break begins, home games Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets and Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.

Michal Neuvirth will make his third start in a row for Washington, the first time he has done so since he made five straight between Jan. 24-31, 2013.

Evgeni Nabokov, who has been successful against the Capitals throughout his 13-year career, will oppose Neuvirth; he is 12-2-3 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .919 save percentage all-time against Washington.

Here are the projected lineups for the Islanders and Capitals:


Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck

Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Colin McDonald

Eric Boulton - Casey Cizikas - Peter Regin

Brian Strait - Andrew MacDonald

Thomas Hickey - Lubomir Visnovsky

Matt Donovan - Calvin de Haan

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Matt Martin, Matt Carkner, Radek Martinek

Injured: Travis Hamonic (concussion)


Martin Erat - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Marcus Johansson - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward

Brooks Laich - Casey Wellman - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Connor Carrick

John Erskine - Tyson Strachan

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

Injured: Mikhail Grabovski (left ankle), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Mike Green (concussion)

Notes: It was announced Tuesday that Martin Erat will replace injured St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka (left leg) on the Czech Republic roster for the Sochi Games. "It's always nice to play for your national team, especially as a big tournament as Olympics are," said Erat, who will make his third Olympic appearance. "It's going to be nice to change scenarios for a while and hope [we] get something done there."

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