Tonight, the NY Islanders (5-4-3) play host to their division rival Washington Capitals (6-4-2) at UBS Arena. The Islanders, coming off three straight losses, are desperate for a full 60-minute effort, as they have shown a worrying tendency to blow leads early in the season. This tendency to give up opposing goals in bunches could sink the team, and it's crucial for the Isles to figure it out, starting tonight against the Caps.
The Capitals, meanwhile, have gotten off to a pretty good start. Their 6-4-2 record leaves them fourth in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Isles. The Caps are also coming off a solid 4-2 win against the Devils, which was their fifth win in their last seven games. It is likely that the Capitals will be tired, as this will be the second game of a back-to-back for them. The Islanders will need to capitalize with a relentless forecheck to create offense against the Capitals. Darcy Kuemper would ordinarily draw the start tonight, but he is questionable due to a minor injury, which means the Islanders could end up facing backup Charlie Lindgren- who played last night- or AHL third-string goaltender Hunter Shepard instead.
The Islanders lost to the Boston Bruins (11-1-1) by a 5-2 score on Thursday night, sunk by a Charlie Coyle hat trick. Pierre Engvall was a healthy scratch after his giveaway during Tuesday's loss to Minnesota that led to a Wild goal. It will be interesting to see if Engvall gets back into the lineup tonight against Washington, which would seem to be a pretty safe bet after the poor performance in Boston.
Brock Nelson and Simon Holmstrom scored for the Isles. Holmstrom, in particular, has been playing extremely well lately, having found a home on JG Pageau's flank. But the Isles, on the road against a team that is now 11-1-1, never had much of a shot in this game, and it showed on the ice. Ilya Sorokin played well enough with 30 saves, but still has not found his best game early on in the season. It is obviously imperative that Sorokin be the best player on the team. Otherwise, the Isles will struggle to make the playoffs.
The Islanders improved their all-time record against the Capitals to 104-105-13-17 with their 3-0 shutout win in Washington last week. Semyon Varlamov recorded the 32-save shutout, and Brock Nelson had a goal and an assist in the win. The Isles will try to even the all-time record tonight.
Individually, Alexander Ovechkin has destroyed the Islanders throughout his career, with 42 goals in 68 career games against the Isles. Tom Wilson is another player who has always made an impact against the Islanders, and the Islanders no longer have Thomas Hickey on the roster as an enforcer against him!
PLAYERS TO WATCH
NYI: Pierre Engvall. Assuming Engvall is back in the lineup, it will be interesting to see how he responds to being the healthy scratch against Boston. Engvall, who has played extremely well since being traded to the Islanders last season, would seemingly deserve a break after playing so well. But accountability is key, and Lane Lambert is obviously trying to get the team to tighten up on defense and improve their decision-making with the puck. After all, a team without a powerful offensive attack must limit mistakes that create scoring chances against. Hopefully, Engvall got the message and returns to the lineup in a big way tonight.
WSH: Tom Wilson. Wilson has a propensity to cross the line with his physicality, and for an Isles team that's already banged up, it's crucial to limit Wilson's influence. They cannot afford for him to bang up any more of their players. It'll be imperative for the Isles to skate with their heads up while Wilson is on the ice, and make sure to get out of this game without any injuries. Wilson is also second on the Caps with 8 points in 12 games, proving again how valuable it is to have a guy so mean and physical who can also score enough to play in the top six. Look for Wilson to be an impact player tonight, as he usually is against the Isles.
Mathew Barzal- Bo Horvat- Oliver Wahlstrom
Pierre Engvall- Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri
Anders Lee- JG Pageau- Simon Holmstrom
Matt Martin- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov- Ryan Pulock
Sebastian Aho- Noah Dobson
Samuel Bolduc- Scott Mayfield
Alexander Ovechkin- Evgeny Kuznetsov- Tom Wilson
Sonny Milano- Dylan Strome- TJ Oshie
Aliaksei Protas- Connor McMichael- Matthew Phillips
Beck Malenstyn- Nic Dowd- Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Martin Fehervary- John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin- Nick Jenson
Lucas Johansen- Hardy Haman Aktell
Line Projections courtesy of Daily Faceoff.