HOME SWEET HOME
By Jason Lockhart
The Islanders ended their impressive seven-game home stand Thursday night when they dropped a heartbreaker to St. Louis 3-2 in overtime. By reaching overtime, the Islanders assured themselves a point in six of the seven games to finish 5-1-1 during this stretch. The seven-game homestand was a success in fact it was the best in Islanders history.
Four other times, including at the beginning of this year, the Islanders played in seven consecutive games at home. Prior to this year, the best Islanders performance during such a stretch was 3-2-2 between November 21st and December 21st during the 2001-02 season.
The Islanders topped that mark in October of this season when they went 4-1-2 at the Nassau Coliseum to start the home portion of their schedule. That productive run in the middle October jump-started the Islanders' season after a sub-par opening road trip. Since then, the Islanders have been in or near the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
This most recent home stand not only kept the Islanders within reach of the playoff pack, it put them in a playoff position. They currently sit in seventh, one point behind sixth-place Atlanta. Starting February 15th and ending on March 1st the Islanders defeated Boston, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal and Philadelphia, while losing to New Jersey in regulation and St. Louis in overtime to earn 11 out of a possible 14 points.
"We came into this stretch at home wanting to stay in the playoff hunt," said assistant coach Danny Flynn. "We got points almost every night and have stayed in the mix. So we accomplished what we wanted to."
After seven consecutive games at home, the Islanders will play six of their next nine games on the road, including Saturday's contest against the Capitals in Washington. While the Capitals are all but out of the post-season chase, they still have one of the most dynamic players in Alex Ovechkin, who is tied for third in the NHL is goals with 38.
Despite their below .500 record, the Capitals have defeated the New Jersey Devils recently and lost in overtime to high-flying Tampa Bay. One player who knows Washington well, is former Capital Richard Zednik, who was acquired by the Islanders a day before the trade deadline.
"It's going to be exciting going up against my former team," said Zednik, who's had two stints with the Capitals. "They're a young team so they're going to come at us hard and play with a lot of energy. It's going to be a challenge to stop Alex. We'll have to get in his face right away since he likes to carry the puck. The whole team has to play within our system."
This is the third meeting between the two teams this year. The Islanders won 4-1 at home on November 25th, but lost in a shootout, 2-1, at the Verizon Center on February 4th.