(7:00 p.m. ET, TV: FSN NY | Radio: Bloomberg 1130) It's back to the road for the Islanders as they take on Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals tonight at the Verizon Center.
The Islanders didn't end their seven-game home stand the way they had hoped, but looking at the overall stretch, they can certainly be proud of their performance over the past month.
In seven games, the Islanders compiled 11 points and have moved right into the middle of the playoff hunt. With games still in hand on the teams around them, the Islanders share seventh place with Carolina and trail Atlanta by three points. Montreal and Toronto are nipping at their heels, but the Islanders are looking forward not back.
Ryan Smyth made his Islanders debut in Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis. He put on quite a show in his first game, with the Nassau Coliseum crowd chanting Å“Ryan SmythÂ? throughout the night. He was instrumental in both Islanders goals.
In the first period, with the Islanders on their first power play, Smyth elected to stay at the offensive blue line while the team re-grouped. Mike Sillinger head manned the puck up to Smyth to trigger a 2-on-1 break. Smyth then found Sillinger, who walked in all alone and scored on the backhand.
Smyth didn't earn a point on the second Islanders goal, but without him it would never have happened. After Jason Blake knocked the net off while driving to the crease, Smyth conscientiously grabbed the net and put it back into place just a moment before Marc-Andre Bergeron's shot from the left side deflected in, off a Blues defenseman. It was Bergeron's first goal as an Islander. He has one goal and three assists in five games with the Islanders.
Since the arrival of the boys from Edmonton, the Islanders power play has improved. In the past five games, the Islanders have gone 4-for-14 (28.6%) on the power play.
The other recent Islanders acquisition, Richard Zednik, returns to the place he called home for this season and six others. Zednik began his career with the Capitals and then moved to the Canadiens before returning to Washington at the beginning of this season. He has gone scoreless in his first two games while playing on a line with Miroslav Satan and Viktor Kozlov.
The Capitals were already injury depleted prior to their 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday with their starting netminder Olaf Kolzig unavailable, but things got worse when forwards Matt Pettinger and Boyd Gordon were knocked out in the third period.
One player the Islanders will have to pay close attention to is in the lineup Alex Ovechkin. He is tied for fourth in the NHL with 38 goals and ranks eighth with 80 points. Ovechkin, though, isn't the only Russian to watch out for. Alexander Semin is having a stellar sophomore season, having already scored 33 goals.
Brent Johnson has been seeing a majority of time in goal with Kolzig out of commission.
Despite being plagued with injuries, the Capitals have had some fight in them, defeating New Jersey last Saturday and then losing to the Devils by one goal the following game. They followed up those performances with overtime losses to Florida and Tampa Bay.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe can be seen tonight on FSN NY.
BELOW ARE CHANNEL LISTINGS FOR FSN NY ON LONG ISLAND
FSN NY: 72
FSN NY: 624
FSN NY: 413
FSN NY: 725
Islanders - 73 points, 3rd place, Atlantic Division
Washington - 60 points, 5th place, Southeast Division
Islanders Jason Blake, 32 goals, 57 points; Mike Sillinger, 28 assists; Brendan Witt, 111 PIM.
Washington Alexander Ovechkin, 38 goals, 42 assists, 80 points; Donald Brashear, 129 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 16.1 percent. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent.
Washington - Power play: 17.3 percent. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent.
Islanders Rick DiPietro (28-18-6, 2.67 GAA, .915 SV%); Mike Dunham (4-5-3, 2.90, .911)
Washington Brent Johnson (5-10-6, 3.62, .888); Frederic Cassivi (0-0-1, 1.34, .944)
Islanders: 3 pts.; Washington: 2 pts.
February 4, 2007 at the Verizon Center: Washington 2-1 shootout win
Washington 14-13-7 at home
Islanders 14-13-4 on the road
1 Mike Dunham
39 Rick DiPietro
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
44 Freddy Meyer
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
12 Chris Simon
18 Mike Sillinger
20 Richard Zednik
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
81 Miroslav Satan
94 Ryan Smyth
1 Brent Johnson
35 Frederic Cassivi
2 Brian Pothier
4 John Erskine
23 Milan Jurcina
26 Shaone Morrisonn
44 Steve Eminger
47 Bryan Muir
55 Jeff Schultz
8 Alexander Ovechkin
10 Matt Bradley
13 Jiri Novotny
16 Brian Sutherby
21 Brooks Laich
24 Kris Beech
27 Ben Clymer
28 Alexander Semin
39 Alexandre Giroux
43 Tomas Fleischman
87 Donald Brashear