CAPITALS (41-10-4) at ISLANDERS (30-19-6)
TV: 7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, CSN-DC, MSG+, NHL.TV
SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Goalie Thomas Greiss will make his second consecutive start for the New York Islanders when they play the Washington Capitals at Barclays Center on Thursday.
Greiss and goalie Jaroslav Halak alternated the previous five games, but Greiss has won five straight starts and is 7-1-0 in his past eight games. He made 28 saves in a 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
"Thomas has been playing well and there's no reason not to put him back in there against Washington," coach Jack Capuano said.
Though Greiss (16-6-2, 2.16 goals-against average, .931 save percentage) has excelled, Halak (13-12-4, 2.42 GAA, .914 save percentage) has allowed at least three goals in four of his past five starts, is 3-7-0 in his past 10 and was pulled twice. He gave up six goals in two periods of his last start, a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 13.
Greiss may have the hot hand, but Capuano has not committed to a true No. 1 goaltender, citing a taxing schedule that awaits the Islanders. New York faces the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Friday, the first of a stretch where it will play nine of its next 10 and 12 of its next 14 games on the road. A seven-game trip, including four games in Western Canada, ends March 6 at the New York Rangers.
The Islanders are carrying three goalies including Jean-Francois Berube, who last played on Feb. 2.
"You have to look at the schedule, No. 1, with the games that we have," Capuano said. "No. 2, you can look at the past experience, what success goalies have had against the opposition as well. There's a number of things that we look at when we meet with our staff and our goalie coaches.
"It's a heavy schedule, it's a heavy load. Everybody on this team that is with us now, and even after the [NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29] when the rosters expand, we're going to need everybody to play and play well."
The Islanders have played very well at Barclays Center, where they're 19-8-3 and 4-0-0 in February while outscoring opponents 22-7. The Islanders will have 10 home games left after Thursday, but six of their final eight games of the season are in Brooklyn and one is at Madison Square Garden.
New York is in third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Devils and two in front of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It's a huge game," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "It's no secret the standings are pretty tight. If you drop a game or two you're out of the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]. We want to try and get some separation, so these are games we have to win. Divisional games are four-point games and they're important."
The Capitals' 41 wins are tied for most in an NHL season through 55 games with the 2007-08 Red Wings and four shy of their total from all of last season (45-26-11). They're 8-1-2 in their past 11 games against the Islanders, including 2-0-0 this season, but New York stood toe-to-toe with them at Verizon Center on Feb. 4, when they were tied 2-2 before Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winner with 2:40 remaining in the third period.
"I thought one of the best games we played this year was in Washington," Capuano said. "I think it goes down as top-two games that we played this year in all areas of our game.
"We know we can play with them, but at the end of the day there's no moral victories. You have to get results. If we can get out here tonight, and we can start on time and play a good game, it should build some confidence knowing we can play against the best team in the League right now."
The Capitals did not hold a morning skate Thursday.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Mike Richards - Michael Latta
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov
Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body)
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev
Mikhail Grabovski - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Brian Strait - Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey - Marek Zidlicky
Injured: Calvin de Haan (lower body), Eric Boulton (lower body), Adam Pelech (upper body)
Scratched: Jean-Francois Berube, Steve Bernier
Status report: De Haan remains day-to-day and will miss his first game of the season. His 20:45 minutes per game are fourth on the Islanders. "He's played extremely well for us," Capuano said. "He's played some hard minutes against other teams' top players." … Strait will skate alongside Hamonic in de Haan's place. … Capuano said the Islanders could call up a defenseman from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League for the road trip, with Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Kevin Czuczman among the candidates. … Holtby is expected to start for the Capitals after Grubauer made 39 saves in Washington's 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Orpik had an assist in 16:34 of ice time in his first game since Nov. 10.
Who's hot: Ovechkin has scored nine goals in his past 10 games. … Kuznetsov has 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in his past 14 games. … Burakovsky has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in his past 14 games. … Leddy has eight points (goal, seven assists) in his past eight games. … Okposo has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his past six games. … Tavares is on a six-game point streak (four goals, six assists). … The Islanders have scored power-play goals in six straight games, their longest single-season streak since an eight-game run in March 2002.