October 13 vs. New York Islanders at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 2:00 pm on washingtoncaps.com
New York Islanders (1-0-1)
Washington Capitals (2-1-0)
Washington concludes its first homestand of the season against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. With wins over New Jersey and Ottawa, the Caps are seeking to run the table in their three-game homestand.
The Caps survived a late scare against the Sens on Monday, getting away with a 3-2 overtime win by virtue of Alex Ovechkin’s overtime game-winner. The goal was the eighth overtime game-winner of Ovechkin’s career.
Defenseman Mike Green was a key to the Caps’ win over the Sens. Along with partner Jeff Schultz, Green shut down Ottawa’s top forward trio. He also led all players on both sides in shorthanded, power play and even strength ice time in the game, totaling 31:53 overall. Only one defenseman this season has exceeded that figure in a game, and only once last season did Green personally exceed that figure.
“I think he’s very comfortable playing under Bruce,” says longtime teammate Brooks Laich of Green. “Bruce gives him the green light, and Mike’s such a tremendous skater that he can go up the ice with the play and he has that special ability to come back if the puck turns over which not a lot of d-men have. They can go up the ice, but they can’t get back.
Tuesday was Green’s 25th birthday and also the fifth anniversary of his first NHL game. In that Oct. 12, 2005 game at Carolina, Green logged 14:14. Only three of Green’s teammates from that contest remain with the Capitals today: Ovechkin, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley.
This season, Green leads the Capitals in ice time (an average of 28:20 per game), plus/minus (plus-4), hits (eight, tied) and blocked shots (seven). Offense has always been a part of Green’s game, but he and Schultz have formed an effective shutdown tandem in the early going, too. Green has been on the ice for just one opposition goal in three games this season while Schultz has been on for none.
“He’s a game-changer on the back end and that’s why we want him to play almost as a fourth forward,” says Laich. “But at the same time, I think this year he’s done a good job being more responsible defensively, and it’s going to be scary now if he adds that element to his game how good this guy is going to be.”
Capitals blueliner Tom Poti took warm-ups prior to the Ottawa game, but was a late scratch. Tyler Sloan stepped in for Poti, seeing his first action of the season. Forwards Bradley and Marcus Johansson were lost during the course of Monday’s game against the Sens, so the Caps could be going from three healthy scratches at season’s outset last Friday to none on Wednesday when they host the Isles.
All three injured Caps have lower body injuries. Poti and Bradley are both listed as day-to-day while Johansson is week-to-week.
“When you lose one of your top players, it’s not pressure,” says Boudreau, in reference to Poti’s absence. “To me, it’s a chance. John Erskine, Tyler Sloan, [Karl] Alzner, [John] Carlson, these guys should embrace the fact that [they have a chance to play more]. You don’t hope or your teammate to be out, but you want the opportunity to get more minutes so you can show that when he does get back in you deserve to play more.
“I never think of it as a pressure situation, I think of it as an opportunity.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start in goal for the fourth straight game to start the season. The last time the Caps had a goaltender start and go the distance in each of the first four games of a campaign was Olie Kolzig in 2005-06.
In his last 110:44 between the pipes, Neuvirth has stopped 56 of the 58 shots he has faced. He is 10-2 with a 2.20 GAA and a .928 save pct. lifetime at Verizon Center. Neuvirth has won nine straight starts at the Phone Booth and has allowed two or fewer goals in all nine.
The Capitals are 1-for-13 on the power play this season and they have been perfect in a dozen penalty killing situations.
New York is coming off a 6-4 come-from-behind win in a Monday matinee match against the New York Rangers. The Isles evened that game up late on a 5-on-3 goal, then went ahead on the 5-on-4 portion of the power play. The Islanders iced the contest with an empty-netter.
Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski was detected making a lewd gesture to Rangers forward Sean Avery, and the NHL announced the blueliner would be suspended for a pair of games as a result. Wisniewski, one of New York’s key off-season acquisitions, will forfeit nearly $80,000 in salary as well.
Wisniewski had three points (one goal, two assists) in the team’s first two games and his average of 23:39 per contest led all Islanders’ skaters, so his absence is likely to be felt.
Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow rearranged his team’s blueline corps over the summer. In addition to Wisniewski, the New York backline features newcomers Mike Mottau, Mark Eaton and ex-Cap Milan Jurcina.
Washington’s injury woes pale compared to those of the Islanders. New York is without No. 1 defenseman Mark Streit (shoulder) and top six forward Kyle Okposo (shoulder) for the long term, and they are also without sophomore center John Tavares (concussion) and forward Rob Schremp (back) for the short term.
The Isles’ offense has piled up 10 goals in the season’s first two games. Blake Comeau (three) and Matt Moulson (two) have accounted for half of those tallies. Comeau and Josh Bailey lead the Islanders with four points each.
The Fishermen have scored five of their 10 goals in the third period. They’ve outshot opponents by a combined 35-13 in the final frame of their first two games this season.
Half of New York’s offensive largesse in the early going has come from the team’s power play. The Fishermen ranked 27th in the league with the extra man last season, but they’ve clicked on five of 13 tries (38.5%) here in the early going. Two of those tallies have come with a two-man advantage. New York’s power play unit could provide a good challenge for the Caps’ revamped penalty killing outfit.
New York netminder Rick DiPietro has been limited to a total of just 13 games over the last two seasons, but he has gotten the nod in each of the first two tilts of 2010-11. DiPietro has been dented for eight goals on 55 shots in those two games. He is 9-3-1 with a 2.09 GAA and a .921 save pct. in 17 career appearances (15 starts) against the Capitals.