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Jason Chimera relishing chance to face Capitals

Islanders forward treating game against former teammates as 'all business,' but not above making a few jokes

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Jason Chimera had just finished saying how his return to Verizon Center with the New York Islanders on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, CSN-DC, NHL.TV) is going to be "all business."

But as is his nature, Chimera couldn't resist slipping in a joke when asked if he'd have an advantage facing his former Washington Capitals teammates, particularly goaltender Braden Holtby.

"I've got lots of advantages," Chimera said. "I know where to score on Holtby and all that stuff. It's going to be real easy to score on him because I scored on him many times in practice and I've got lots of little secrets."

The 37-year-old forward wouldn't go any further, saying, "I can't share them because that's why they call them secrets."

There's no doubt Chimera knows the Capitals as well as any opponent. He played for them for seven seasons before signing a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Islanders as an unrestricted free agent July 1.

That made him comfortable enough to burst into their locker room yelling prior to the Islanders' preseason game at Verizon Center on Sunday. Chimera also took that playfulness onto the ice, tangling with Capitals right wing Tom Wilson during one shift that left Wilson laughing and "accidentally" knocking over defenseman John Carlson while skating back to the visiting bench.

Chimera said getting that preseason game against the Capitals under his belt helped prepare him for his first regular-season game against his old team.

"It's the kind of game that you can have some fun with and joke around with some guys," he said of the preseason game. "But now there's no time for joking anymore. It's all business."

Chimera matched his NHL career high by scoring 20 goals for the Capitals last season. But because of his age and salary cap constraints, they opted not re-sign him. He remains one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, something that he felt would make him a good fit with Islanders.

"You play against them so many times and see how they play, how quick they play, and see what they can have and what they're all about and you want to be a part of that, for sure," he said. "They're a young team coming up. They've got a lot of good pieces that are coming up for sure. You've got [Anders] Lee and [Brock] Nelson and [Ryan] Strome and all those guys just at the start of their careers. Obviously John Tavares doesn't hurt either coming to the team."

Chimera had no idea when he signed that he'd begin the season playing with Tavares and Andrew Ladd on the Islanders' top line. That position appeared designated for PA Parenteau until Parenteau was placed on waivers Monday and claimed by the New Jersey Devils.

Chimera ended up playing there in the season opener against the New York Rangers on Thursday.

"It's just one of those things that kind of evolves," Chimera said. "With PA being put on waivers, it opened up a spot so they put me up there, and hopefully I can run with it. I want to prove I still can do it up there and prove I belong. It's one of those things you've got to prove you belong up there or else you get taken off pretty quickly. So you've got to make it work."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano cited Chimera's speed as the main reason for trying him with Tavares and Ladd.

"We're just looking to balance our lines and our attack with guys that we feel can give us some balance," Capuano said. "He's great on the forecheck, the first guy in on the forecheck with his speed and physicality with Andrew and Johnny. So it's Game 2 for them and we'll see how it goes."

Chimera said he appreciates the opportunity to play with Tavares, who led the Islanders and finished 16th in the NHL with 70 points (33 goals, 37 assists) last season.

"He's a pretty special player," Chimera said. "You play with a lot of good players throughout your career, but any time you get to play with a guy like John Tavares is pretty cool. He talks a lot on the ice and makes it pretty easy to play with him out there."

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