The NY Islanders enter their second to last game of the season in the second wild card spot and will look to hold onto their playoff position by getting a win against their division rivals in the Washington Capitals, who have already been eliminated from contention.
The Islanders are coming off a dominant 4-0 performance against the Philadelphia Flyers in a game that they needed to win at UBS Arena. Ilya Sorokin was the Islanders' rock in goal once again, stopping all 27 shots he faced. The game-winner was scored by Scott Mayfield with a seeing-eye shot from the blue line in the first period. Brock Nelson made it 2-0 early in the second by scoring on a 2-on-1 that started with a great stretch pass from Noah Dobson in the Isles' zone. Samuel Bolduc has continued to impress with the opportunity he has been given late in the season, scoring his second goal of the campaign. Hudson Fasching put the cherry on top for the Isles late in the third, also scoring on an odd-man rush. Three Islanders finished the game with two assists in Dobson, Bo Horvat, and Simon Holmstrom.
The Caps' last game was a 4-2 defeat against the team that the Islanders need to lose: the Florida Panthers. Washington was without future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin due to an upper-body injury, and his status for tonight's game will certainly be a key factor. Everybody's favorite player Tom Wilson had the most impactful performance for the Capitals, posting one goal, one assist, four shots on goal, four hits, and four blocks. Dylan Strome scored the first goal of the game in the second period, but the game started to unravel after that. Matthew Tkachuk continues to score at will for Florida, registering one goal and two assists, including the game-winner. Carter Verhaeghe, Aaron Ekblad, and Sam Reinhart also scored for the Panthers. If the Capitals pulled out a win tonight against New York, then this would be a case of everything that could go wrong going wrong for the Isles with Florida deep in the race.
The Isles have played the Caps three times this season, going 1-2 in the process. Their latest matchup came not even two weeks ago, resulting in a 2-1 Islanders shootout win, their only such win of the season. Pierre Engvall scored the only goal for the Isles in regulation along with Horvat and Kyle Palmieri getting it done in the shootout. Their most recent loss to Washington came about a month ago at home in a rough 5-1 showing. Engvall again scored the only goal for the Islanders through 60 minutes, and Capitals' goalie Darcy Kuemper only needed to make 17 saves in the win. Their first matchup came in mid-January, which saw the blue and orange blow a 3-0 lead and eventually lost in overtime 4-3 courtesy of Dmitri Orlov.
Players to watch
Anders Lee has scored the second-most goals among current Islanders players against the Caps with 11, and if anybody needs to start scoring now for the Isles, it's him. Lee has gone scoreless in 12 of his last 13 games, which is not ideal for someone who thrives on scoring in the dirty areas in front of the net and has not helped the hapless power play as of late. The Isles' captain has found himself skating on their third line lately as well, and has at times looked slow and not driving play. However, as we've seen in years past, Lee does not let that bother him and will always play a meaningful game when it matters most, so the Islanders will look for more production from their former 40-goal-scorer.
With Ovechkin's status being in question, the Islanders may avoid seeing the all-time great who's scored more of his goals against them than any other team. One guy that New York should be wary of is trade deadline acquisition Rasmus Sandin. Sandin has found a new offensive stride since arriving in Washington, scoring 12 points in 16 games with the team. In one of his first games since being dealt, he put up three assists against the Isles in their 5-1 loss at home. Sandin replaces the hole that was left with the Orlov trade for both the present and future, so the Isles will need to make sure he is a non-factor tonight.
Anders Lee- Bo Horvat- Simon Holmstrom
Pierre Engvall- Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise- JG Pageau- Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech- Ryan Pulock
Samuel Bolduc- Scott Mayfield
Sebastian Aho- Noah Dobson
Conor Sheary- Dylan Strome- Tom Wilson
Joe Snively-Nicklas Backstrom- Craig Smith
Sonny Milano- Evgeny Kuznetsov- Aliaksei Protas
Beck Malenstyn- Nic Dowd- Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Martin Fehervary- John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin- Nick Jenson
Alexander Alexeyev- Matt Irwin
Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff