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Caps use same personnel as they chase third straight

by Ben Raby /
WASHINGTON -- The Capitals look for their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 11-15 as they begin a five-game homestand tonight against the New York Islanders.

Washington begins the day in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind eighth place Winnipeg and three points behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers.

The Islanders have lost three of their last four games to drop to 13th place in the conference, eight points out of a playoff position.

Dale Hunter is expected to use the same lineup that won back-to-back games last weekend against Montreal and Toronto. That means that veterans Mike Knuble, Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine will again be healthy scratches.

"You have to work hard in practice and prepare yourself that when I get in I'm going to play well," Hunter said. "Now if Hammer or Knubes get in and they play well, they'll bump out a guy. That's the way it is."

Hamrlik, who has played no fewer than 75 games in each of the past five seasons, will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, while Knuble will watch from the press box for the third straight game, and for the sixth time in 10 games overall.

Knuble, 39, has 3 goals and 12 points in 57 games this season and has spent much of the season on Washington's fourth line.

"I haven't been healthy scratched in six years," said Caps forward Brooks Laich, "but my second year when I got healthy scratched, you feel like you're forgotten about. The rest of the team is here and you're just a forgotten piece, and for the guys that aren't playing, you want to make sure that as a teammate that you still include them in everything. Talk about the game with them and keep them involved as much as possible, because it would be easy if nobody talks to them for them to go the other way."

Michal Neuvirth (8-9-3) is expected to start a third straight game for the Caps for the first time since Dec. 15-26 when the 23-year-old started five straight games.

Evgeni Nabokov (15-15-0) will start for the Islanders. Nabokov, an unrestricted free agent at season's end, was thought to have been on the trading block prior to yesterday's deadline.

"Nabby has been a huge part of our success," Islanders captain Mark Streit said. "But honestly, I didn't expect [a trade] because we're still in it, we have a shot -- we need a great run here, let's not fool ourselves -- but [general manager] Garth [Snow] didn't want to make any deals because he believes in the team and has a lot of faith in us so we're all looking forward to the next six weeks."

Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game:

Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Keith Aucoin
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
David Ullstrom - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - Kyle Okposo
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Jay Pandolfo

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Streit - Milan Jurcina
Mark Eaton - Steve Staios

Evgeni Nabokov
Al Montoya

NOTES: The Capitals have the second best home record in the Eastern Conference at 20-8-2. … Nabokov is 10-1-0 lifetime against the Caps with two shutouts, a 1.98 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. … Nino Niederreiter is expected to be a healthy scratch for the Islanders. Niederreiter has 1 goal in 39 games this season and his minus-19 rating is last among Eastern Conference forwards.
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