Pregame #63: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

Washington Capitals (32-20-10) at New York Islanders (23-31-8)
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Time: 7:00 PM
TV: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), MSG+
Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Previous Games:
Oct 13, 2010 NYI@WSH 2-1 W
Jan 20, 2011 WSH@NYI 2-1 W
Games Remaining:
Mar 1, 2011 NYI@WSH, 7pm
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:
Milan Jurcina (2007-2010)
Former Islanders:
John Erskine (2005-06)
Tom Poti (2006-07)
The Enemy:
Our Bloguin Partner: Islanders Hockey Blog
Lighthouse Hockey

The Capitals play the first of a home-and-home series with the injury-plagued New York Islanders after collapsing against the Rangers last night.  The Capitals and Islanders will return to Verizon Center for a re-match on Tuesday at 7pm to close out the season series.  With the Capitals playing well lately and having won the first two games of the season series, there is a chance for a let-down against a team that is out of the playoff race.  The Islanders have been holding their own lately, they are 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.  With all of the injuries to their goalies, the Islanders have had to get the job done with offense, averaging 4.1 goals per game over the past 11 games, though recently acquired goalie Al Montoya pitched a shutout last week.  Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov has not yet faced the Islanders this season.

Injury Report – Update: Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom (thumb) played last night, but he did not take faceoffs.  D Mike Green (ear) was hit in the head early in last night’s game and did not return.  Green did not make the trip to Long Island, D Tyler Sloan is expected to take his place in the lineup.  RW Eric Fehr (shoulder) is expected to miss another week or two.  There is no timetable for the return of D Tom Poti (groin).
-Islanders D Radek Martinek (lower body) and D Milan Jurcina (groin) are listed as questionable.  The Islanders laundry list of long-term injuries includes D Mark Streit (shoulder), C Doug Weight (back), D Mike Mottau (hip), RW Trent Hunter (knee), D Mark Eaton (Hip), G Rick DiPietro (face), and G Kevin Poulin (knee).  LW Trevor Gillies is suspended.

The Island

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What to watch for:

Attention Grabner:  Islanders rookie Michael Grabner is tearing up the NHL lately.  While he has been quiet for the last 3 games, the Austrian speedster put together an 18-game stretch in which he scored 16 goals and 24 points.  During that stretch, Grabner had two 6-game point streaks, one of which accounted for 9 goals, 12 points, a hat trick, and the #1 Star of the Week.  Grabner’s 25 goals leads NHL rookies, and he has a goal and 2 points in 2 games against the Caps this season, meaning he’s been in on 100% of New York’s offense against the Caps. 

Top-Line Tandem:  The Capitals’ super-duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have been involved in 100% of the Caps goals against the Islanders this season.  Ovie has a goal and 4 points and Backstrom has 2 goals ans 4 points in 2 games against the Fishermen this year.  Backstrom has also taken #1 star of the game honors both times.  Backis has been quiet lately, so this would be a good time for him to put some points on the board heading into the playoffs.

Beer Me:  On the same day that the NHL announced a partnership with Molson-Coors to name Molson Canadian the official beer of the NHL, NY Islanders forward Matt Moulson scored a hat trick.  Moulson had 6 goals in his last 3 games and 7 points in his last 4 before Thursday night.  A 30-goal scorer last year, Moulson signed a 3-year contract extension with the Islanders last month for $9.45 million.  The multi-talented Moulson has an Ivy League education from Cornell University, graduating as a member of the Quill and Dagger society with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Economics.  He was also captain and leading scorer of the Big Red hockey team, where his brother Chris is a sophomore forward.  Ironically, Matt Moulson was drafted higher by the National Lacrosse League (4th round) than he was in the National Hockey League (9th round).  Moulson’s modus operandi is scoring dirty goals from in close, so the Caps defense will need to clear him out of the crease.