Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals visit the New York Islanders for the second and final time and for the third meeting overall between the two teams this season on Saturday afternoon. After the Capitals beat the Islanders by a score of 2-1 on October 4 in the Islanders’ home opener, the Islanders returned the favor with a 4-3 victory at Capital One Arena on New Year’s Eve. Action from Nassau Coliseum/NYCB Live can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 1 PM ET.
The Capitals hit the road for one more game before their bye-week. They hit the road for their next two games and for three out of the next four. Their 17-6-1 road record this season is the best in the NHL, but the Capitals have dropped four of their last five road contests (1-4-0). They conclude a stretch of five straight games against Metropolitan Division foes. The Capitals are 8-7-1 against the division this season.
Defenseman John Carlson’s 58 points this season are the tenth-most in the NHL while his 45 assists are third. His +14 rating is second on the team behind defenseman Radko Gudas’ +24, which is the fourth-highest in the league this season. The 30-year old Carlson is currently riding a three-game assist-streak, where he has recorded four helpers in that span; he has 10 assists in his last nine games. After his hat-trick in the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, captain Alex Ovechkin’s 31 goals this season are third in the league behind only Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (36) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34). The 34-year old has five goals in his past two games and will play Saturday, opting to serve his one-game suspension for skipping the NHL All-Star Game when the Capitals return to action against the Montreal Canadiens on January 27.
After two straight regulation losses and a stretch where they went 4-5-0 in a span of nine games, the Capitals have won two straight games by a combined score of 7-2 after defeating the Devils on Thursday night and are looking to head into the bye week on a high note. Their 69 points are one more than the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are four up on Pittsburgh Penguins for first in the Metropolitan Division. Their offensive production has declined lately, tallying just five goals in a span of three games before equalling that amount in a 5-2 win over the Devils. After allowing 34 goals in a span of nine games (3.78 per game), the Capitals have allowed two in their last two games.
The Capitals’ average of 3.50 goals-per-game is the fifth-highest in the NHL while their average of 2.88 goals-against per game is the ninth-lowest entering Saturday afternoon’s contest. Their 20.8% power-play efficiency is 12th but their 84.4% penalty-killing rate is second behind only the San Jose Sharks (88%). The Capitals’ average of 32 shots-per-game is 11th in the NHL while their 29.8 shots-against per game is the sixth-lowest.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 18-9-4 with an .899 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against average this season, will start at the Islanders on Saturday afternoon. In 25 career outings against the Islanders, the 30-year old is 16-6-3 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against average. He made 18 saves in the Capitals’ 4-3 loss to the Islanders on December 31 in his first start against them this season. His 16 wins against the Islanders are tied for the third-most he has against a single franchise (Bruins: 18; Devils: 17; Hurricanes, Islanders: 16).
The Islanders close out a three-game homestand, which they have split the first two games on, and start a set of back-to-backs after falling 3-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday when they allowed the game-winning goal on the power-play with 24.6 seconds left in regulation. Once they wrap up with the Capitals, they will head to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday evening. The Islanders are 15-6-3 at home this season.
The Islanders have dropped three of their last four games (1-2-1) and are 5-6-2 in their past 13 games since three straight victories in December. One of those wins came against Washington 19 days ago. The Islanders have scored two goals at most in three of their last four and six of their last eight since the Capitals saw them last. They are currently sitting comfortably in third in the Metropolitan Division as they trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by five points for second and lead the Hurricanes by three for third with two games in hand on each opponent.
Center Mat Barzal leads the Islanders with 22 assists and 39 points in 46 games this season. The 22-year old has been held off of the scoresheet in five of his last eight games, where he has recorded only one goal, five points, and a -5 rating over that span. He is one goal behind center Brock Nelson, who is currently riding a three-game point streak where he has recorded three goals and five points, for the team lead.
The Islanders’ defense is stingy once again this season under head coach Barry Trotz as their average of 2.63 goals-against per game, which is tied with the Bruins for fifth in the NHL, offsets an offense that currently ranks 21st with an average of 2.85 goals-per-game. The Islanders’ 79.4% penalty-killing efficiency is 18th in the league while their 18.3% power-play rate is 21st. Their average of 29.5 shots-per-game enters Saturday’s game against the Capitals tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the fifth-lowest in the NHL while they are at the league average in terms of shots against per game (31.6).
Goaltender Thomas Greiss, who is 13-7-0 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average this season, could start against the Capitals on Saturday afternoon. In his career against the Capitals, the 33-year old is 3-3-1 with a .927 save percentage, a 2.15 goals-against average, and one shutout. He shared the Jennings Trophy with Robin Lehner as the goalie tandem who allowed the fewest goals in the league last season, when he went 1-2-0 with a .929 save percentage, 1.70 goals-against average, and one shutout against the Capitals. In his last start against them, he made 26 saves in a 3-1 loss on March 1.
- Ovechkin reached the 30 goal-mark for the 15th consecutive season on Thursday, becoming one of three players in NHL history to record 15 straight 30 goal-seasons (Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner) and one of two to score 30 goals or more in each of their first 15 seasons (Mike Gartner); additionally, Ovechkin is the only player in NHL history to accomplish the feat with one team
- Center Nicklas Backstrom has recorded 10 points (nine assists) in his last 10 games
- The Capitals have killed off 13 straight power plays, dating back to their 5-4 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks on January 5
- Forward Jakub Vrana has six goals in his last seven games
- Center Nic Dowd is expected to play in his 100th game as a member of the Capital against the Islanders
By Harrison Brown