Nov. 30 vs. New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network
Washington Capitals (13-11-2)
New York Islanders (8-15-3)
Washington finishes off a second straight busy weekend – three games in four nights with the third on the road – with the first of its two visits to Long Island this season. The Caps face the Isles on Saturday night, a night after a come-from-behind, 3-2 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center.
Friday’s win over the Habs halted the Capitals’ losing streak at four (0-3-1), and the team’s home ice losing streak at three.
The Caps and the New York Islanders have been reunited in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division, and the two clubs will clash for the second time this season. Washington won the first of the four meetings between the two teams this season, earning a 6-2 victory over the Islanders on Nov. 5 at Verizon Center.
For the second time in as many weekends, the Caps are playing a set of back-to-back games to finish off a run of three games in four nights. Washington managed to secure just one of a possible six points last week, and is hoping to take four points out of this week’s three-in-four set with a win over the Islanders on Saturday.
“We’ve got to recover quick and get down there and just try to carry some of the momentum we had in the second half of the game,” notes Caps forward Eric Fehr, who had a goal and an assist in Friday’s win over the Canadiens. “I thought we played a lot more physical and I think that was a big reason why we came back. We were physical on their [defense] and created a few more turnovers. We were a lot harder on their forwards and not letting them spin off us. I think that was a big part of the second half of the game.”
Fehr has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last seven games, despite sitting out nine games as a healthy scratch in the midst of that seven-game scoring spree.
Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced on Friday to earn his 11th win of the season. Friday’s game marked the eighth time in Holtby’s last 10 starts that he has faced down 30 or more shots on goal.
Holtby was not originally scheduled to start Friday’s game, but slated starter Michal Neuvirth stepped on a puck as he stepped onto the ice in a darkened Verizon Center for warmups before Friday’s game, and he suffered a lower body injury in the process.
Video coach Brett Leonhardt hurriedly signed an amateur tryout agreement and dressed to sit on the bench as Holtby’s backup in the win over the Canadiens, but the Caps have recalled goaltender Philipp Grubauer from the AHL Hershey Bears on an emergency basis as the team’s second goaltender for Saturday’s game.
Grubauer made his first – and thus far only – NHL start here on Long Island against the Islanders last march 9 in a 5-2 Islanders triumph.
With Hershey this season, Grubauer is 4-4-1 with a shutout, a 2.60 GAA and a .910 save pct.
Washington also recalled defenseman Dmitry Orlov from Hershey and reassigned center Michael Latta to the Bears. This marks the fifth time that Orlov has been recalled from Hershey in less than a month, but the Russian defenseman has yet to suit up and play for the Capitals this season.
In Friday’s win over the Habs, defenseman Alexander Urbom was benched late in the first period after logging just 2:15 of ice time over three shifts. Urbom was on the ice for Montreal’s first goal and his lapse in coverage helped contribute to the tally. With Caps coach Adam Oates and his staff unhappy with Urbom’s play of late, it certainly seems within the realm of possibility that Orlov will finally suit up for the first time this season on Saturday against the Islanders.
Whether the Caps go with Holtby on short rest or go with Grubauer on Saturday remains to be seen.
The Islanders won three of their first five road games of the season prior to that Nov. 5 visit to Verizon Center. They haven’t won on the road since, losing seven straight away from the Island and failing to pull as much as a point from any of those losses.
With Friday’s 5-0 home ice humbling at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, New York has lost five straight and has dropped 10 of its last 12 games.
When the Capitals and Islanders met earlier this season, Washington torched the Islanders for four power play goals. That loss started the Islanders tailspin during which they’ve won just two of 12 games, and New York has allowed 14 power play goals in that span, despite taking an average of just three minor penalties per game during that period of time.
The Islanders’ penalty killing outfit is just 22-for-36 (61.1%) during the team’s current 2-10 stretch. New York’s power play outfit is 5-for-44 (11.4%) over the same span of a dozen games. In its last 16 games, the New York power play is 5-for-57 (8.8%).
The Islanders are the only team in the NHL with a less experienced defense corps than Washington’s, and New York has surrendered three or more goals in nine of its last 10 games. The Islanders haven’t surrendered a lot of shots on net during their current dismal run; they’ve allowed more than 30 shots on net only three times in their last 11 games.
Longtime Caps nemesis Evgeni Nabokov is out with a groin injury, leaving the lion’s share of the netminding to Kevin Poulin. Nabokov played in just four games in November, including his loss to the Caps in Washington on Nov. 5. He is 1-2 with a 4.79 GAA and an .848 save pct. in those four games. Nabokov went on injured reserve on Nov. 18 and is expected to miss about four weeks.
Anders Nilsson was recalled from AHL Bridgeport to replace Nabokov on the roster, but he has played in one game (35 minutes) thus far.
Poulin has struggled in his first stretch as the team’s go-to goaltender. He is 3-10 on the season with a 3.24 GAA and an .887 save pct.