Friday, October 23, 2009

Capitals Try to Keep Islanders Struggling

The Capitals wrap up their brief two-game road trip Saturday night on Long Island, meeting the Islanders for the first time this season.

New York played Washington tough last year in Uniondale, requiring the Caps to use overtime twice despite the Isles coming into the contest having lost seven and eight games, respectively.

This year, while the Islanders have struggled out of the gate, they aren't carrying a long losing streak, having defeated the Hurricanes Wednesday night in a shootout for their first win of the campaign before falling to Montreal 5-1 on Thursday night.

Like their efforts against the Caps last season, the Islanders have played a couple of their opponents tough, but some poor third-period efforts have cost them a few points. In their season opener, the Isles twice blew a lead in the third period, and fell to the Pens in a shootout. Against the Bruins on Oct. 10, New York blew a three-goal lead in the final 8:01 to fall in a shootout.

Wednesday night, New York blew a two-goal lead to Carolina in a 1:02 span in the final six minutes of the contest, but managed to earn their first victory of the season thanks to a John Tavares shootout goal.

Although Tavares has been strong in the first eight games of his NHL career with three goals and seven points, New York's offense continues to struggle, scoring just 18 goals and currently tied for 25th in the NHL in offense with a 2.12 goals-per-game output. The defensive effort hasn't been much better, allowing 3.62 goals-per-game, third-worst in the league.

That thin defense certainly will be appealing to Washington, who is third-best in the league with a 3.67 goals-per-game scoring pace, and Alexander Ovechkin certainly liked playing New York last season, scoring six goals and eight points in four games against the Isles, with four of those coming at the Nassau Coliseum.

Coming off just his second pointless game of the season, Ovechkin figures to be a factor against the Islanders with 12 goals in 15 career games against New York.

Washington has run off three straight wins following their 5-4 win over the Thrashers, and despite having a nasty habit of their own of letting leads evaporate late, the Capitals are 5-2-2 on the campaign. Semyon Varlamov won his second straight start Thursday, and is 4-0-0 on the campaign despite a slow start and some shaky moments on the season.

Like their game against Nashville last Saturday, the Capitals will need to take the Islanders out of the contest early, as New York certainly has shown capable of skating with some good opponents - at least for the first 55 minutes of a contest.

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