Eyes On Isles Pre-Game Report
Tonight, the New York Islanders (21-28-8, 50 Points) visit the Washington Capitals (25-22-9, 59 Points) in game no. 58 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
When: Tuesday, February 4, 7:30 PM EST
TV: NBCSN, TSN2 (Play-by-play: Dave Strader; Color: Brian Engblom)
Radio: 88.7 FM WRHU, 103.9 FM WRCN (Chris King)
Opposition Blog: Stars and Sticks
The New York Islanders continue to get the results they don’t want out of the teams they are currently chasing in the Eastern conference. With time slipping away, they find themselves now 12 points out of the last guaranteed berth and a wild-card berth, still giving games in hand.
Only three games from the Sochi Olympic break, general manager Garth Snow will have some tough decisions to make and it seems like head coach Jack Capuano is on board as well. After this morning’s pre-game skate at the Verizon Center, the Islanders bench boss announced that Evgeni Nabokov (9-10-5, 2.83, .907) will make the start in goal, his third consecutive trip to the crease. After also announcing that forward Eric Boulton will return to the lineup, he refused to name which forward will be coming out of the lineup until game-time.
With the news that Thomas Vanek will not re-sign with the team and enter unrestricted free agency, this calls into question whether the team will decide to scratch the high scoring forward in hopes of keeping him healthy enough to make a trade, recouping some of the assets lost when they acquired him in October of 2013.
That philosophy certainly makes a lot of sense for the team and management. With rumors already starting to swirl that teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins are said to be interested in Vanek’s services, the importance of the next move Snow makes will have serious implications on the Islanders future, as they continue to struggle to find the right balance to become a legitimate annual contender to at least make the playoffs.
Islanders captain John Tavares, tied for second in the league in scoring with 64 points, is pointless in his last three games for the first time all season with only 8 shots on goal. Needless to say, New York only goes as far as their leader and top talisman take them. Kyle Okposo, however, continues his career season and now leads the team with 24 goals. The USA born winger has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 4 contests.
Travis Hamonic skated this morning with the team in a positive development but is still not ready to come off the injured reserve list, as he recovers from a concussion. Lubomir Visnovsky is pointless in three games since his return after missing over 40 with a concussion of his own, but seems to be getting more of his timing back with each shift.
The Capitals come in with struggles of their own, 3-6-1 in their last 10 and 3 points off the playoff chase. Alex Ovechkin continues to pace a deadly offense (tied for 4th in the conference in goals scored) and leads the league with 39 goals in 52 games on the season. Super pivot Niklas Backstrom leads the team with 42 assists and sits 5 points shy of Ovechkin’s team leading 58 points.
Defensively, Olympian John Carlson paces the blueline for the Capitals as the young defender is on his way to a career offensive season with 10-13-23 in 56 games. Mike Green has shown signs of breaking down as injuries are becoming a little more prevalent but still leads all Capitals defenders in scoring with 7-23-30 in 51 games. He has been sitting out the last week with concussion related symptoms.
In goal, it’s anyone’s guess who Adam Oates will designate for tonight’s game. Michael Neuvirth, Philip Grubauer or Braden Holtby. The team thought Holtby would be the future for them and even though he has played the lions share of games (34), he has only produced a paltry 15-13-2 with 3.00 GAA and .909 save percentage on the season.
As a team, the Capitals rank 14th in goals per game, 24th in goals against, 3rd on the power play and 19th on the penalty kill.
What They’re Saying
- “It’ll go right down to the end,” coach Adam Oates said. “That’s why you’ve got to get as healthy as you can. Every point matters.”
- “I definitely know I’ve got a role on this team, and that’s obviously to try to chip in as much as I can,” Ward said. “But by no means I’m not trying to be no superhero or Batman.”
- “We’ve played a lot of hockey,” captain John Tavares said. “We didn’t seem to have that extra gear when we needed it.”
- All time vs Capitals : 86-25-24
- Road Warriors: The Isles are 9-3-0 in their last 12 road games
- Career Highs: With 25 games to play, Kyle Okposo has matched or exceeded his career highs in goals, assists and points. Frans Nielsen has surpassed his previous career high of 17 goals.
- Hot Hand: Kyle Okposo has points in seven of his last eight games (5g/7a). Okposo has 12 goals and 12 assists in his last 17 games
- Need For 3: The Isles are 19-7-3 when they score at least three goals and are 2-21-5 when they do not.
- Under Capuano: The Islanders are 105-111-35 under Head Coach Jack Capuano. He ranks second on the Islanders all-time list in both games coached (252) and wins (105), behind Al Arbour (1,500 coached, 740 wins)
- Iron-Man Streak: Frans Nielsen leads the Islanders with 186 consecutive regular-season games played. Other notable streaks include Matt Martin (118) and Andrew MacDonald (105).
26 Thomas Vanek – 91 John Tavares – 21 Kyle Okposo
16 Peter Regin – 51 Frans Nielsen – 12 Josh Bailey
40 Michael Grabner – 29 Brock Nelson – 15 Cal Clutterbuck
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 13 Colin McDonald - 36 Eric Boulton
37 Brian Strait – 47 Andrew MacDonald
14 Thomas Hickey – 11 Lubomir Visnovsky
44 Calvin de Haan – 46 Matt Donovan
Injured Reserve :3 Travis Hamonic