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Isles shake things up vs. surging Caps

by John Kreiser

CAPITALS (9-2-0) at ISLANDERS (3-5-2)


Last 10: Washington 8-2-0

Season Series: The teams are meeting for the first of four times this season. Washington swept the season series in 2010-11, winning all four games by one goal.

Big Story: Talk about two teams going in opposite directions. The Caps have won two in a row and nine of their first 11, including Friday's 5-1 whipping of the Hurricanes in Carolina. Meanwhile, the Islanders are 0-4-2 in their last six games and haven't scored more than two goals in any of those games. They've played seven of their first 10 at home -- but have been blanked in three of the seven, triggering some line changes by coach Jack Capuano.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Remember the controversy over Alex Ovechkin not being on the ice in the final minute on Tuesday? It has passed like a winter snow flurry after the Caps followed their comeback win against Anaheim with a dominating performance at Carolina. Ovechkin had a pair of assists and five players had goals, including the first NHL tally by rookie Cody Eakin, who got the full shaving-cream-in-the-face treatment from Ovechkin.

Even coach Bruce Boudreau got a kick out of seeing Eakin get No. 1.

"You always like being part of that because it brings you back to remembering yours," he said. "So it's cool."

Islanders: While all is well in the nation's capital, there aren't many smiles these days on Long Island, where the good vibes from a 3-1-0 start have disappeared following six consecutive losses -- including a 3-0 stinker at home against Winnipeg on Thursday.

The Islanders outshot the Jets 34-28, but 19 of those shots came in the second period, the only one in which the Isles played well.

"We need to do a better job when we have those opportunities," captain Mark Streit said.

Capuano has shuffled all four lines for Saturday; the moves include switching speedter Michael Grabner to the first line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, promoting Brian Rolston to the second line, and flipping his third- and fourth-line centers, Josh Bailey and Marty Reasoner.

"We've got some guys shooting pucks on net, guys driving to the net... We just haven't scored goals, so we had to do something," Capuano said Saturday morning. "It doesn't matter who you play with. You still have to do the little things."

Rick DiPietro will get his third straight start in goal.

Who's Hot: Washington's Nicklas Backstrom has been outshining Ovechkin, at least on the scoresheet. Backstrom had a goal and an assist in Friday, has three straight two-point games and is third in the NHL with 16 points in 11 games. Ovi has five goals and 12 points. … Were it not for John Tavares, the Isles might have no offense at all -- he has seven goals and 11 points on a team that has scored just 18 times.

Injury Report:
Caps defenseman Mike Green is close to returning from an ankle injury. … The Islanders are still without forward Nino Niederreiter, who has yet to play due to a groin problem but has been on a rehab assignment with AHL Bridgeport.

Stat Pack: The Isles' 18 goals are the fewest they've scored in their first 10 games since entering the NHL in 1972. … Ovechkin has 15 goals and 26 points in 22 career games against the Islanders.

Puck Drop: Once upon a time, the Islanders owned the Capitals. New York went 16-0-3 in the first 19 games between the teams. That's all ancient history now: The Caps are 11-0-1 in their last 12 meetings with the Isles, haven't lost in regulation in their last 14 games and are 7-0-1 in their last eight visits to the Nassau Coliseum -- a place where they went 0-17-1 before recording their first victory.

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