The NY Islanders (16-9-9) face off against the Washington Capitals (17-10-5) after facing a loss to their metro rivals just a week ago.
Like you, I don't want to discuss Wednesday's loss, so I'll keep it brief. The Islanders lost 7-0 to the Penguins in a brutal way. Kris Letang broke an NHL record with the most assists by a defenseman in a period, with five during the second period. After a slow first period on both ends of the ice, the Pens came out flying in the second, and the Islanders couldn't catch up for the next 40 minutes. Jake Guentzel scored twice for the Pens, giving them their second and third goals on the night. Evgeni Malkin also scored twice, and in pure Islanders fashion, Valtteri Puustinen scored his first NHL goal against Semyon Varlamov. This came after Ilya Sorokin, who was left in for the entire second period even after giving up six goals, was pulled for the third. There's not much left to say about Wednesday's game, as it was just horrible for the Islanders, who need to do better against division rivals.
The Washington Capitals are also coming into tonight's matchup from losing against a Metro division rival. The Caps fell 5-1 to the NY Rangers on Wednesday night. After a scoreless first period, Anthony Mantha opened the scoring four minutes into the second. The Rangers scored three straight goals and ran away with the game. K'andre Miller scored twice and garnered an assist. The Caps went 0/2 on the power play and allowed a goal on the penalty kill.
The last time the Islanders and the Capitals faced off was not too long ago on December 20th, when Noah Dobson took a penalty just a minute into overtime, and Dylan Strome scored the game-winner for the Caps. The Isles came into that matchup on the second half of a back-to-back with travel and started the night looking sluggish. They spent the whole night playing catchup with the Caps but seemed to pick up their game during the third period. Joel Edmundson scored his first of the season, and Hudson Fasching scored just his second. Anders Lee scored his nastiest goal of the season to tie the game at two and send it into overtime.
Tonight is the Islanders' last chance to split the season series against Washington. They won their first game 3-0 to give Varlamov his second shutout of the season, but that was back when the Isles had a healthy defensive line. The Caps won the next two matchups on November 11th and December 21st, 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. This will be the last time the Isles and Caps face off this season, as both teams are looking to maintain their playoff position, with both teams hanging on to the Eastern wild card spots. The Caps remain two points behind the Isles with two games in hand, and the Isles sit just one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers and Caroline Hurricanes, who are sitting tied for second and third in the Metro.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Islanders: Per Ethan Sears, Varlamov, who took a maintenance day yesterday, was not on the ice for the morning skate. Ilya Sorokin, who struggled in his last start against the Pens, is set to start in net. NHL newcomer Ken Appleby will back up Sorokin out of the Bridgeport Islanders. Appleby has never played in the NHL, and this was his first call-up to the big leagues in his career. While Appleby (probably) won't be making his NHL debut tonight, it's still an exciting time for any hockey player. Brock Nelson has five points in his last five games, and Anders Lee is looking to extend his hot streak tonight. Dobson has five assists in his last five games, but fans are weary that he's losing steam fast as head coach Lane Lambert has the young star playing over 25 minutes a night.
Anthony Mantha has five points (4G, 1A) in his last five games, including his game-openers against the Rangers. Darcy Kuemper, who is set to start in net, has a goals-against average of just .303 compared to Sorokin's 3.27. Of course, when playing the Caps, you always have to look out for Alexander Ovechkin, who sits just 66 goals away from matching Wayne Gretzky.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom - J.G. Pageau – Julien Gauthier
Hudson Fasching - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Samuel Bolduc - Robert Bortuzzo
Mike Reilly - Sebastian Aho
Alexander Ovechkin - Connor McMichael - Tom Wilson
Aliaksei Protas - Dylan Strome - Anthony Mantha
Max Pacioretty - Evgeny Kuznetsov – Matthew Phillips
Beck Malenstyn - Nic Dowd - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Martin Fehervary - John Carlsson
Rasmus Sandin - Ethan Bear
Joel Edmundson - Nick Jensen