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Ovi-less Caps go for third consecutive victory

by John Kreiser /

ISLANDERS (6-6-5) at CAPITALS (10-3-4)

Last 10 -- Islanders (5-3-2); Capitals (7-1-20)

Season series -- The Islanders and Capitals are already meeting for the third time this season. The teams split the first two games by winning in overtime in the other's building. Washington rallied from a 2-0 third-period deficit for a 3-2 win at the Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 24, and the Isles returned the favor with a 4-3 win at the VerizonCenter on Oct. 30.

Big story -- What is life like without a superstar like Alex Ovechkin? For the Capitals, it's so far, so good. Ovechkin three games last week with an upper-body injury -- and the Caps won twice, sweeping a home-and-home series with Florida after a 3-2 loss at New Jersey.

"Alex Ovechkin is definitely hard to replace, but this is where we as a coaching staff challenge the team," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau wrote in his column on the team's Web site this week. "We are not a one-man team, and we don't want people to think of us as a one-man team even though we know how great he is. You manufacture goals and other people pick up the slack."

Team Scope

Islanders -- The Isles have had three days off since perhaps their best game of the season, a 6-3 home win over Atlanta on Saturday. Now things get tough -- New York plays its next seven games and 12 of its next 14 away from the Nassau Coliseum. The overtime win at Washington 11 days ago is the Isles' only victory in eight road games.

Winning away from home won't be easy, but a good sign for the Islanders was that the six goals against the Thrashers came from six different players, and 13 of the 18 skaters hit the scoresheet.

"If we can get the kind of balance scoring we got tonight we can be a lot harder to play against," coach Scott Gordon said of the road trip."

Capitals -- The absence of Ovechkin has opened up quality time for other players -- especially Tomas Fleischmann, who scored twice in the first meeting with the Islanders.

Fleischmann missed the first three weeks of the season with a deep vein thrombosis, but has five goals in six games since his return.

"I am a big Fleischmann fan, and I know how good he can be," Boudreau said in his column. "He is the player nobody knows about on our team, but he is a really good glue guy. He is responsible and is a top-six forward who can play both offensively and defensively and those guys are really hard to find."

Who's hot -- The Islanders have gotten much more than they could have expected from Matt Moulson, who scored his team-high seventh goal against Atlanta. Washington's Mike Knuble, another player who needs to step up in Ovechkin's absence, had 2 goals and 2 assists in Saturday's 7-4 home win over Florida.

Injury Report -- The Islanders might get forward Trent Hunter (chest) back tonight, but they won't have captain Doug Weight (upper-body, 4-6 weeks) and defenseman Radek Martinek, who's gone for the season after tearing a knee ligament last Friday. Forward Kyle Okposo didn't make the trip to Washington; he reportedly will miss the first three games of the road trip with the H1N1 virus. Ovechkin is listed as week-to-week, while defensemen Jeff Schultz and Mike Green and forward Boyd Gordon are day-to-day.

Stat pack -- Six of the last eight games between the teams have gone beyond regulation -- though five have been decided in overtime and only one in a shootout. Each team has won three. Fleischmann's two goals against the Islanders on Oct. 30 were one more than he had scored in his first 10 games against them.

Puck drop -- Both teams are playing at well below top strength physically, especially if Green and Schultz can't play for the Caps. The Islanders, who've struggled way from home for more than a year, will be desperate to get their long trip off to a good start by taking advantage of Ovechkin's absence.

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