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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Capitals

Kyle Okposo will play in his first game this season when the New York Islanders take on the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night

Thursday, 01.20.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Capitals
Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, the New York Islanders will face the Washington Capitals for the second time this season. In their first meeting, the Capitals stole a 2-1 win after prospect Nino Niederreiter scored his first NHL goal during the first period to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

Even though this will be the second meeting, it will seem like the first. Due to injuries, the Islanders have a very different roster than they did at the start of the season and eight players that were major contributors in the first game, will not be in the lineup.

“It was a different team when they held them to those two goals," Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. "But at the same time, they have some high powered offense and they also have a different lineup than they were then too. So we just have to be on top of our game a little bit better. I thought (our game against) New Jersey, we were just casual in certain areas of our game and that has to pick up a little bit.”

The Isles have one of the highest man games lost totals in the league, fans attending the game will witness the long-awaited return of Kyle Okposo, who will play in his first game this season after undergoing shoulder surgery during the preseason.

“Obviously he’s been practicing and he works hard, but for a guy that’s been out there for that long, just to see a smile on his face and him being around the guys is the important thing right now,” Capuano said.

Easing Okposo back into the game will be important.

“We have to control his minutes,” Capuano said. “But we would not play him unless we thought he was ready to go. He’s been skating very hard with the coaches that have been working him out. We’ll have to see how the game goes, but I’m sure he’ll see some power play time.”

The Capitals roster remains intact and their major players remain offensive threats. Alexander Ovechkin, who scored the Capitals game-tying goal on Oct. 13, leads the team in points (46). And Nicklas Backstrom, who was credited with the game-winning goal after the puck deflected off his toe, is a close second (42 points).

The Capitals top lines may have more points than the Islanders top scoring lines, but the Isles have been more potent in recent weeks. Since the New Year, the Islanders and Capitals have posted very similar records, as both teams have only recorded three wins.

The Capitals have had to depend on players, other than Ovechkin, to produce points. Ovechkin has only scored two goals and two assists in the month of January, while Islanders sophomore John Tavares has scored seven goals and has had two assists. Those points (33 total) put Tavares on pace to score more points than he did in his rookie season, defying the notion of a sophomore slump.

PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders skates during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Nassau Coliseum on January 11, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
A lot of Tavares’ success has been to the playmaking abilities of his linemate and Islanders winger PA Parenteau, who has recorded two goals and three assists this month.

“He’s skating,” Capuano said. “We know that he has the skill, the hockey sense and the vision, but the one thing I like about his game right now is that he’s competing hard and he’s skating. When you skate, you can control the play and you’re going to create offense. We moved PA around (in the game against New Jersey) and no matter who we put him with, even the goal that was called back with (Michael) Grabner. Obviously he’s doing something right with his game right now and to me, it’s skating.”

Goaltender Rick DiPietro did not participate in practice on Wednesday morning, as he was feeling ill. If he is feeling healthy, it is most likely that he will play Thursday. In his most recent start on January 15, the goaltender made 40 saves for the win, a feat he’s accomplished for just the ninth time in his career. In his last four starts, the veteran goaltender has recorded wins, posting a 1.99 goals against average and a .945 save percentage.

“When Ricky is going and in the week of practice that he had, he looked really good, but it all depends on how he feels,” Capuano said after addressing that DiPietro missed practice due to illness.




1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


K. Okposo 49 15 26 -7 41
J. Tavares 48 19 21 -4 40
F. Nielsen 51 15 18 0 33
B. Nelson 51 20 11 1 31
M. Grabovski 51 9 15 2 24
J. Bailey 50 9 15 5 24
N. Leddy 51 3 20 -8 23
A. Lee 51 7 15 1 22
R. Strome 40 5 14 -6 19
C. Clutterbuck 50 11 4 6 15
J. Halak 12 11 4 .917 2.28
T. Greiss 14 6 2 .929 2.26
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