New York at Washington Preview: Capitals Host Islanders In New Year’s Eve Matinee

The Washington Capitals host the New York Islanders on Tuesday afternoon for the second meeting of the season between the two teams. The Capitals won the Islanders’ home opener by a score of 2-1 at Nassau Coliseum on October 4. The Islanders won both of their games at Capital One Arena last season and have taken four of their past seven games (4-3-0) there. Action from the District can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 1 PM ET. Islanders

The Islanders wrap up a three-game road trip coming off of the NHL’s holiday break after splitting the first two games away from home. Most recently, they earned a 3-1 victory at the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night for their fourth road win in their last five tries (4-1-0), a stretch that followed a span where they went 1-4-1 on the road. The Islanders are 11-6-1 away from home this season.

The Islanders are currently in a dog fight for positioning the Metropolitan Division a season after being the most surprising team in the league when they finished with the fifth-most points (103). While they currently sit second in the division with 51 points, the Carolina Hurricanes, who occupy the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, sit only three points behind them. The win in Minnesota on Sunday snapped a three-game losing streak. The Islanders have gone 2-3-1 in their past six games after winning three in a row.

Center Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders in goals (16), assists (17), points (33), and plus-minus (+10) in 37 games this season. Before the NHL’s holiday break, the 22-year old posted seven goals and 12 points in a span of 12 games. Forward Cal Clutterbuck has not played since having wrist surgery after getting cut by Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron on December 18. Clutterbuck is out indefinitely.

After head coach Barry Trotz transformed the Islanders’ defense last season when they finished first in the league in goals-against (191), the team is one of the best in that category once again this season as they currently rank fifth with a 2.59 goals-against per game average. Their 20.4% power-play efficiency is 12th. The Islanders’ average of 28.7 shots-per-game is the second-worst in the NHL this season, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings (28.4).

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who is 13-3-3 with a .920 save percentage, a 2.40 goals-against average, and a shutout in his first year with the team, will likely start on Monday afternoon. In nine career team’s against the team that drafted him 23rd overall in 2006, the 31-year old is 3-5-1 with a .932 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average. He made 26 saves in the Islanders’ loss to the Capitals on October 4.

Capitals

The Capitals return home, where they will play six of their next nine games before their bye-week and 11 of their next 16 total. They have won three straight home games and are 12-2-2 at Capital One Arena since losing their first three there (0-1-2) this season. The Capitals have allowed two goals at most in each of their wins during the home winning-streak.

The Capitals have won 10 their last 14 (10-4-0) after a stretch where they dropped four of seven in mid-November (3-2-2). They scored at least three goals in every win during that stretch before Friday’s 2-1 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets and allowed two at most in every one. They are now eight points clear of the Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division but only two ahead of the Boston Bruins for first in the Eastern Conference.

Defenseman John Carlson’s 50 points in 40 games this season lead the Capitals and are ninth in the NHL this season, while his 35 assists are tied for fourth with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau, and his +18 rating is tied for eighth. Before recording two assists in the Capitals’ 6-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, the 29-year old posted just two goals and five points in eight games and got on the scoresheet in only three of those games. The stretch followed a three-game stretch where he tallied three goals and six points. Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s 24 goals this season rank fourth in the league. He’s scored in three of his past five games after only recording two points, which came in the same game, in the previous seven outings.

Defenseman Michal Kempny, who missed the team’s last two games due to illness, practiced on the third-pairing with Jonas Seigenthaler on Monday. Forward Tom Wilson (lower-body injury), who left Friday night’s 2-1 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets after getting hit by center Ryan McInnis and missed the game in Raleigh, participated in practice on Monday but is not guaranteed to return against the Islanders. Forward T.J. Oshie missed Monday’s practice due to illness but head coach Todd Reirden was optimistic that he will suit up on Tuesday. Defenseman Christian Djoos, who left Saturday’s loss with an upper-body injury and did not return, will not play.

The Capitals’ average of 3.50 goals-per-game this season is fifth in the NHL, while their average of 2.90 goals-against per game ranks 11th. They have allowed 14 goals over their last three games. Their power-play currently sits 11th in the NHL with a 21.6% efficiency due to a 0-for-15 stretch in five games before they went three-for-10 in the last two games. Their 84.7% penalty-killing efficiency is currently tied for second with the Bruins behind only the San Jose Sharks (87.6%). The Capitals’ average of 30.2 shots-against per game is the seventh-fewest in the NHL while their average of 31.7 shots-per-game is 13th.

Reirden did not name a starting goaltender for Tuesday’s game vs. the Islanders after Braden Holtby allowed nine goals on 39 shots (.769 save percentage) in his last two outings. The 30-year old, who is 17-6-4 with a .904 save percentage and a 2.95 goals-against average this season, is 16-5-3 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.32 goals-against average in 24 career games against the Islanders. Ilya Samsonov, who made 25 saves in his NHL debut against the Islanders on October 4, is 10-2-1 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.28 goals-against average.

Shavings

  • Carlson enters Monday’s game four assists shy of passing Peter Bondra (353) for the eighth-most assists in franchise history
  • The Capitals (465-231-0-90) recorded the most wins of any team in the 2010s and only trail the 1970s Montreal Canadiens (501-160-130-0) and Boston Bruins (487-190-111-0) as the winningest franchise of any decade in NHL history; additionally, with a .649 point percentage, the Capitals only trail the 1970s Canadiens (.712) and Bruins (.689) and the 2000s Detroit Red Wings (.682) in point percentage in a decade in NHL history
  • Ovechkin will conclude the decade with the most goals (437 goals), while center Nicklas Backstrom will finish with the most assists (511 assists) to become the second pair of teammates in NHL history to lead an entire decade in both categories and play with one team (1960s: Chicago Blackhawk forwards Bobby Hull: 429 goals, Stan Mikita: 489 assists)
  • The Capitals’ 59 points through 40 games are the sixth-highest point total through 40 games by any team since 2015-16 and five points shy of the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning (64 points) for the most during this span; the Capitals and Lightning are the only two teams in the NHL to record at least 59 points through 40 games twice in the last five seasons

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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