It’s been 38 days since the Capitals last defeated a fellow Metropolitan Division opponent. Washington’s 3-2 win over the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on Dec. 27 left the Caps in second place in the Metro and with a six-point lead over the four-team logjam in third place: Philadelphia, Columbus, the New York Rangers and New Jersey. The seventh-place Carolina Hurricanes were seven points behind Washington and the cellar-dwelling New York Islanders were 15 back of the Caps.
Since then, the Caps have gone 0-5-1 against Metro foes, dropping each of the last five games in regulation and getting outscored by a combined total of 24-11 in the six contests.
The Capitals have won only five of 18 games overall (5-8-5) since that victory over the Blueshirts in late December, and they’ll enter tonight’s game against the Islanders in sixth place in the Metro, four points shy of second and nine points clear of the reeling Isles.
New York lugs a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) with it to the District. The Islanders have been idle since a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Washington’s season-high winning streak is four games, a modest total for a team that has won at least seven in a row in each of the last six seasons prior to 2013-14. The Caps won four straight from Nov. 1-7; they haven’t won three straight since Dec. 7-10. Tonight, they’ll try to follow up Sunday’s 6-5 overtime win over the Red Wings with another two-point effort.
Injured forward Brooks Laich is back in the lineup tonight after missing Sunday’s game because of a lower body injury. Defenseman Mike Green (concussion) and center Mikhail Grabovski (lower body) remain on the sidelines tonight and they’re joined by left wing Aaron Volpatti (upper body).
Here’s how the Caps looked at Tuesday’s morning skate in preparation for tonight’s tilt with the Isles:
Martin Erat – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson – Jay Beagle – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Brooks Laich – Casey Wellman – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Connor Carrick
John Erskine – Tyson Strachan
Michal Neuvirth gets the nod in net tonight for Washington, his third straight starting assignment. The last time Neuvirth started as many as three games consecutively was a five-start run from Jan. 24-31, 2013.
A few notes of interest on the Caps and/or tonight’s game:
Carlson will play in his 271st consecutive game tonight, matching a 21-year-old franchise record for defensemen in the process. Calle Johansson played in 271 straight games for Washington from Oct. 31, 1989 through Jan. 9, 1993. Alzner is nipping at both Carlson and Johansson’s heels; Alzner plays in his 269th straight game tonight against the Islanders.
Strachan was credited with an assist on Wellman’s third-period goal against the Red Wings in Detroit on Sunday. That leaves defensemen Jack Hillen (two games) and Patrick Wey (one game) as the only two skaters without a point of the 27 deployed by Washington this season.
In Sunday’s game, the Caps got even-strength goals from Chimera, Ward and Brouwer. That marked the fourth time this season the Caps got as many as three even-strength goals in the same game from forwards besides Ovechkin. They’re 3-0-1 in such games.
Including Sunday’s game against Detroit, Washington has had a two-goal lead in seven of its last 21 games. It has let that two-goal lead evaporate in six of those seven games. The Caps are 4-2-1 in those seven games, with two of those wins coming in overtime.
The Islanders aren’t the best team in the league but they are the best team in the league when it comes to winning games in which they trailed after 40 minutes. New York has won seven games in that fashion (7-19-2), more than any other club in the NHL. The Caps are tied for third with five (5-17-3).