February 26 vs. New York Islanders at Nassau County Coliseum
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (32-20-10)
New York Islanders (23-31-8)
Washington concludes the February portion of its 2010-11 regular season slate with its second visit of the season to Long Island where it will face the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
The Caps come in on the heels of an embarrassing 6-0 blanking at the hands of the New York Rangers on Friday night. Saturday’s game against the Islanders finishes a stretch in which the Capitals played three straight sets of games on back-to-back nights in a span of 11 days.
“Everybody feels embarrassed,” said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin after Friday’s loss. “We didn’t score. They scored six. We’ll have to forget about [the game] and get ready for [Saturday’s] game.”
Friday night’s shutout loss was the ninth the Caps have endured this season, tied for the third-most in any single season in franchise history. Those nine shutouts have come in a span of just 43 games. Only the 1974-75 first-year expansion Capitals were blanked nine times in a shorter time frame. Starting with a shutout in the second game of the team’s existence, the ’74-75 Caps were whitewashed nine times in a span of just 39 games.
Washington’s loss to the Rangers also short-circuited the team’s bid for its first three-game winning streak since Dec. 26-Jan. 1. Since defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic, the Caps have won nine of 22 games (9-8-5) and have not won more than two contests in succession.
Saturday’s game is the third meeting between the Caps and Islanders this season. Washington took a 2-1 overtime decision from New York at Verizon Center back on Oct. 12 and also downed the Isles by the same score in regulation on Long Island on Jan. 20.
The two clubs meet again in Washington on Tuesday night where they will close out their series for the season.
Saturday’s game is the final contest for the Capitals prior to Monday’s NHL trade deadline. The deadline is set at 3 p.m.
Home ice has been particularly cruel to the Caps of late. Despite allowing a stingy 2.27 goals per game in their last 18 home games, the Capitals are just 5-7-6 during that stretch. They’ve managed to score just 1.83 goals per game during that span and have been blanked four times in their last 16 home games.
Washington has fared better on the road of late. Beginning with a 3-2 win over the Senators in Ottawa on Dec. 19 – the victory that ended the team’s eight-game winless streak – the Caps are 9-4-2 in their last 15 road games.
For the Capitals, Saturday’s game against the Islanders is the team’s rubber game for the month. The Caps come in with a 5-5-1 mark for February. Washington also won fewer than half of its games in both December (5-6-3) and January (5-3-4).
Although their playoff hopes are slim to none once again this season, the Islanders are 6-2-1 in their last nine games. New York ranks 18th in the league with an average of 2.7 goals scored per game this season, but the Islanders have poured 37 pucks into nets in those last nine games for an average of 4.1 tallies per tilt during that stretch.
The Islanders do boast three players with 23 or more goals in Matt Moulson (27), Michael Grabner (25) and John Tavares (23).
Grabner, a rookie who was originally drafted by Vancouver and who was claimed off waivers from Florida at season’s start, recently scored a goal in six straight games. In doing so, he became the first NHL rookie with a six-game goal-scoring streak since Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin in 2006-07. Grabner is the first Islander to achieve that distinction since Pat Flatley in 1984-85.
Both Moulson and Grabner have scored 10 goals in the month of February. According to Elias Sports Bureau, they’re the first pair of Isles teammates to net 10 tallies in February since Bryan Trottier (17), Brent Sutter (13) and Mike Bossy (11) all did so in February, 1982. The Fishermen scored 83 goals in 14 games that month on their way to a 12-1-1 record. New York would claim the third of its four consecutive Stanley Cup titles that spring.
The Fishermen have employed six different goaltenders this season, and each of them has played in at least four games and has recorded at least one win. The Islanders claimed a seventh goaltender – veteran Evgeni Nabokov – off waivers from Detroit but he has thus far refused to report to New York.
Since Isles head coach Jack Capuano took over for Scott Gordon on Nov. 15, the team is 19-21-5. The Islanders are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday, a loss that dropped the New Yorkers to 0-10-2 in their last dozen visits to the City of Brotherly Love.
The six defenseman New York dressed for Thursday’s game against the Flyers have a combined total of 627 games worth of NHL experience with Bruno Gervais (317) accounting for more than half of that total by himself. Three of the Isles’ blueliners – Travis Hamonic, Ty Wishart and Mark Katic – are rookies. Katic made his NHL debut in the Philadelphia game.
Juicy Note: The Islanders are 20-13-3 in games in which ex-Caps defenseman Milan Jurcina is in the lineup this season. They’re 3-18-5 in the 26 games Jurcina has missed this season because of injury.