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Resurgent Capitals welcome in Islanders

by Dan Rosen
ISLANDERS (16-21-6) at CAPITALS (24-17-2)


Last 10:
New York 5-5-0; Washington 7-3-0

Season series:
This is the second of four meetings between the clubs this season. The Islanders beat the Capitals, 5-3, on Nov. 5 at Nassau Coliseum.

Big Story: Washington will be looking for its eighth straight home victory. The Capitals are 17-5-1 at home this season but are just 7-12-1 on the road. They've won the first three games on their current four-game homestand that ends with the Islanders, who are fresh off a 3-1 loss to Nashville on Monday.

Team Scope:

They were down 3-0 before 12 minutes elapsed in Monday's game against the Predators. Despite getting 37 shots on goal, the Islanders only managed to get one back. John Tavares' goal with 3:58 left in regulation Monday extended his point-scoring streak to nine games. However, the Islanders have lost four of their last six games and are a tiebreaker away from being last in the Eastern Conference.

It's likely that Evgeni Nabokov gets the start in net. After winning his 300th career game Saturday, Nabokov was a backup Monday to Kevin Poulin, who was making his second start of the season. Poulin gave up three goals on the first six shots he saw, and finished with 29 saves.

"You can't blame the goalie," captain Mark Streit said following Monday's loss. "The guys in front of him just weren't ready to play the first 20 minutes."

Their 2-1 win over Carolina on Sunday put them in first place in the Southeast Division, at least temporarily. They entered Monday tied with the Florida Panthers with 50 points, but the Capitals have more non-shootout victories so they own the tiebreaker. However, the Panthers were in action Monday night against Boston.

The Capitals were six points behind the Panthers when their current homestand began, but they've beaten the Penguins, Lightning and Hurricanes to make up the ground. The Panthers played only one game during the same span of time and lost to Pittsburgh.

Tomas Vokoun has been in net for all three games on the homestand and has been lights out. He's allowed only four goals on 105 shots against. He had a 30-save shutout against the Penguins and stopped 43 of 44 shots Sunday for a 2-1 win over Carolina.

"You have to play consistently through the season to be successful, and you're going to have ups and downs, but I still believe we're a very good team and we can turn things around," Vokoun said after Sunday's win. "Maybe the struggles were the best thing for us to realize what we needed to do."

Who's Hot:
Tavares, who will represent the Islanders at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, has points 5 goals and 11 assists for 16 points during his nine-game points streak.

Injury Report:
The Capitals are still without leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom (possible concussion-like symptoms) and star defenseman Mike Green (groin). … The Islanders are missing goalie Al Montoya (concussion), defenseman Mike Mottau (concussion), and forward Marty Reasoner (broken hand). The team also announced that goalie Rick DiPietro will be out at least 10 weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery.

Stat Pack:
Vokoun is a big reason why the Capitals have had so much success at home. He is 14-3 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in his 17 starts at Verizon Center this season, including a 7-2 record with a 1.80 GAA and .944 save percentage in his last 10 appearances.

Puck Drop: "In past years, they were cruising through the regular season and never got through the challenge (of the playoffs)," Vokoun said of the Capitals. "This year it looks like it's going to be a fight for the playoffs until the end, and it's almost like those teams who are fighting for a long time, they're ready for the playoffs."

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