Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals have entered 2016 on a high note. They are at the top of the NHL and now they are now searching for their 30th win in 40 games. In order to achieve getting 30 wins, they will have to face a tough divisional foe with the NY Islanders.
This will be the Capitals first visit to Brooklyn. The Capitals are sitting comfortably at the top of the Metropolitan Division, ahead of the 2nd place NY Islanders by 12 points. Braden Holtby, who earned the NHL’s 2nd Star in December, has not lost in regulation in almost 2 months.
Any game between the Washington Capitals and NY Islanders is a spirited affair. There is a lot of hitting, fighting, feistiness, and anger between these two clubs. This game will be the beginning of a 3 games in 4 nights stretch for the Capitals.
The Capitals and Islanders had a memorable playoff series against each other in last year’s playoffs. How about the Game 7 beauty courtesy of Evgeny Kuznetsov?
This is the first of four meetings between the Capitals and Islanders this year. They will not see each other again until February 4th when the Islanders make their trip to Verizon Center.
SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Yes! Yes! Yes! The NY Islanders are 2nd in the Metropolitan Division, and they are in a battle with the NY Rangers for that spot. The Islanders have won 5 out of their last 10 games. They won their last game in a wild fashion as they defeated the Dallas Stars 6-5.
Led by NHL All-Star John Tavares, this team is young, fast, and gritty. They have a pretty good 13-6-2 home record, and they feed off of the energy of the Brooklyn crowd.
The Islanders have gotten improved production with their goaltending. Former Capitals netminder Jaroslav Halak is having one of his best years in net, and backup Thomas Greiss has won a lot of games while Halak has missed some time with injury.
The biggest news out of Brooklyn right now is defenseman Johnny Boychuk and his injury. Boychuk will be out of action for the next month due to a shoulder injury. This is a big blow to the Islanders blueline. Boychuk is a good steady defenseman who has a big shot, and he also likes to lay the big boom.
WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
On Tuesday night, the Capitals shipped up to Boston and came away with a 3-2 victory. The Capitals had dropped their 2 previous games to Carolina and Columbus before that, so it is good the Capitals look like they are back on track.
The game in Boston took its toll on the Capitals lineup a little bit. It was announced today by the NHL Department of Player Safety that Capitals forward Zach Sill will be suspended for the next 2 games due to his boarding move on Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.
Meanwhile, Bruins forward Zac Rinaldo got nothing for his relatively high hit on Tom Wilson:
The Capitals have hit the injury bug recently as defensemen John Carlson and Brooks Orpik have been out of action. Forward Jay Beagle will miss the next month after he is recovering from hand surgery.
With the Capitals recent injuries/suspensions, the Capitals signed former Flyers and Kings forward Mike Richards to a 1-year deal worth $1 million.
It is a low-risk deal for the Capitals with Richards. If he does not pan out, they can easily dump his contract. If he does works out, he will revitalize his career and help the Capitals make a deep Cup run. He has a lot of familiarity with Justin Williams, as they won Cups in Los Angeles together.
Thursday, January 7, 2016 – CSN-DC; MSG+; 7 PM ET
New York Islanders
Capitals – Evgeny Kuznetsov: Evgeny Kuznetsov was all over the ice in Boston on Tuesday night. He had a 2-point night against the Bruins, and had a 2-point night in Columbus last Saturday night. He is showing a ton of patience and skill with the puck. Anyone can see flashes of other Russian greats such as Sergei Federov or Pavel Datsyuk in Kuzy’s game. Kuznetsov is leading the Capitals in points with 37, and he has already tied his point totals from last season.
Islanders – Jaroslav Halak: The 30-year old Slovakia native is having an outstanding year for the Islanders. While he has been hindered by injury, he has 10 wins, 2.09 goals against average, and .923 save percentage. Halak has solidified himself as a #1 goaltender in the NHL. Capitals fans will always have nightmares with Halak and what he did when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
By George Foussekis
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