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Islanders, Capitals battle for two big points

by Corey Masisak /

ISLANDERS (18-16-3) at CAPITALS (17-17-2)


Last 10: New York 6-4-0; Washington 6-3-1

Season series: The Islanders have won both of the meetings this season and can win three in a row against the Capitals for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign.

Big story: Martin Erat will make his Washington debut and both teams are desperately seeking points near the playoff cut line in the Eastern Conference.

Team scope:

Islanders: New York general manager Garth Snow did not make any deals before the trade deadline, but the Islanders did welcome Anders Lee to the lineup on Tuesday and the former Notre Dame captain scored on his first NHL shot in a 5-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Islanders are in a strong position -- eighth place in the East entering Wednesday’s action and they could move into seventh with the right results Thursday. They also have four of the next five contests at home, and each of those four are against teams behind them in the standings.

“There’s a long way to go,” forward Frans Nielsen told the team's website after the win Tuesday against the Jets. “There are still a lot of points up for grabs. You have to play for it. It’s fun where we are in the standings right now, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Capitals: Washington general manager George McPhee made a bold statement before the deadline Thursday, sending 2012 first-round pick Filip Forsberg to Nashville for wing Martin Erat. He'll slide into a spot on the team's top two lines and provide some of the scoring depth from the wing Washington has been missing with Alexander Semin in Carolina.

The Capitals have moved within two points of first place in the Southeast Division, and claiming that spot would mean home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and not having to face the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins.

Who's hot: Isles center John Tavares has eight goals and 12 points in the past 13 games, including three goals in the two contests against Washington. … Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has 11 goals and 17 points in his past 11 games -- which also happens to be the timeframe for when he and center Nicklas Backstrom were reunited on the top line.

Injury report: Islanders defenseman Brian Strait is out with an ankle injury. … Forward Eric Fehr (upper body) and defenseman Tom Poti (back) are both likely out for the Capitals.

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