It’s been a long, strange trip, as they say, but the Washington Capitals can get to .500 with a win today against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. The potential trouble is that the hosts are in the same boat and won’t be too willing to let the opportunity slip away.
If momentum means anything, the Caps definitely have an edge in that department. They should enter today’s game full of confidence after scoring four early goals and basically running away with a 7-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Seven different skaters found the net, including previously slumping Wojtek Wolski (goals in two straight games) and John Erskine (one goal short of his career high for a season).
Mike Ribeiro is loving March so far, putting up six points in three games and moving into the top 10 in the NHL in scoring. And Braden Holtby, who figures to get a rest either today or tomorrow, continues to show why he’s taken such a firm grasp on the number one goaltender spot. Mike Green has been missing on the blue line, but the team has received a boost from the strong debut of Steven Oleksy.
The Islanders experienced something a little less pleasant last time out, leading most of the way against the arch-rival New York Rangers only to see it slip away in overtime. They won two straight prior to that, though strangely they’ve been better on the road (6-3-1) than at home (4-8-2).
New York has no trouble launching shots on net, averaging almost 30 per game. John Tavares (27 points) and Matt Moulson (25 points) have been carrying the offense, and Michael Grabner gives the team three double-digit goal scorers. Evegni Nabokov has been a workhorse, making 20 appearances already this season.
And while every game is big at this point in the year, neither team can really afford to take zero points and run the risk of losing contact with the playoff teams. The Caps can close to within three points of the eight spot in the East, something that seemed like a near impossibility just two weeks ago. The Isles haven’t tasted the postseason since 2006-07, a.k.a the Time Before Tavares, and a loss would drop them to at least 11th in the conference.
Washington has been poor on the road and New York hasn’t defended its home ice well at all. Something’s got to give in this one.
Washington Capitals at New York Islanders
Start time: 1 pm
TV: Comcast SportsNet Washington (Capitals), MSG+ (Islanders)