Game Preview: Islanders vs. Capitals

The New York Islanders look to steal four points in the home-and-home series with the Washington Capitals, starting with the first game at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night

Saturday, 02.26.2011 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Capitals
On Saturday night at the Coliseum, the New York Islanders will look to close out their most successful month of the season when they take on the Washington Capitals in the front end of a home-and-home at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are 8-4-1 this month and getting there was a team effort.

“We’ve just really come together," Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said about the team's success. "We're sticking up for one another and we're doing the little things right. We're getting pucks out of the defensive zone and we're getting pucks in the net most of the time. We're playing well in the offensive zone and we're playing responsible defensively as well."

This month hasn’t been all wins all the time. Tuesday night, the team had trouble getting their feet moving and lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then Thursday night the team did what they needed to do to tie the score and bring the game to overtime, but lost a hard fought battle in Philadelphia.

Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders looks to pass the puck as Carl Gunnarsson #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defends February 22, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
“We showed a lot of heart and a lot of character coming back like that,” Okposo said. “Matt Martin scored two huge goals for us and Al (Montoya) kept us in the game. When we weren’t playing that well in the first period, he made a lot of big saves and it’s always good when you can get a point after being down two goals to arguably the best team in the league. That really helped our confidence and we just want to carry that in to tomorrow.”

While the Capitals month hasn’t been as busy as the Islanders (they’ve played two less games), their record is pretty similar to the Isles. After pulling together two straight wins, they lost to the New York Rangers 6-0 on Friday night (5-5-1 this month). Despite that fact, the Capitals will be looking to reestablish a win streak and they’ve got quite a few dangerously talented players to help them do so.

"Alex Ovechkin is going to get his chances," Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. "He's a great player, just like Nicklas Backstrom and a lot of the other guys that they have, Mike Green on defense, and the list goes on. But we have to worry about what we have to do defensively and hopefully if we defend properly, then we'll get offensive chances."

Capuano talked about the Islanders defense being important for success against the Capitals offensive threats, but both he and Okposo have said how well the Islanders young core have stepped up when facing tough opposition.

“(In Philadelphia) they showed a lot of poise, a lot of heart and sacrifice back there blocking shots, taking hits to make a play,” Capuano said about the Islanders defensemen. “They did a really good job with their sticks defending and they made a good first pass to our forwards. It’s a situation where they’re getting an opportunity and we’re making the best of it. I really praised our defense (Thursday) night, with the four lines that Philly has and the size of their forwards. I thought our defense did a great job of containing them.”

Mark Katic #71 of the New York Islanders skates against Kris Versteeg #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers behind the net on February 24, 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Katic is making his NHL debut. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Okposo gave credit to Mark Katic, a rookie defensemen who the Islanders recalled on emergency loan early Thursday morning.

“Our defense has been playing extremely well for us,” Okposo said. “You look at a guy like (Mark) Katic coming in, his first NHL game, and I thought he was terrific. He really utilized his best asset which is his skating and he didn’t show any signs of nerves at all. That was definitely good to see.”

Even though Capuano knows what his bench is capable of, that doesn’t stop him from worrying about whether or not the team is going to have a good start.

“I’m always a little worried going in because there are games that we do the right things and we get results on the scoreboard and then there are other games like Toronto where we didn’t do the necessary things that we needed to do and didn’t get the results,” Capuano said. “Hopefully they understand what has made us successful and that they can execute. That’s the biggest thing - that we execute what we want to do.”

Despite Capuano’s concern, Okposo knows how much four points against a conference rival can make a difference, so he’s hoping the team can do what he knows they’re capable of.

“We might still be flying a little bit under the radar with teams like Jersey (New Jersey Devils) doing what they’re doing, but we’re starting to play better and we just want to string together some wins here and see what happens. This is a big series for us. The Capitals are playing well right now and we just want to come in, play well and hopefully get four points.”

Puck drops at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.




1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50


J. Tavares 77 34 43 -2 77
R. Strome 76 16 32 20 48
K. Okposo 55 16 31 -11 47
F. Nielsen 76 14 28 8 42
B. Nelson 77 19 22 7 41
A. Lee 71 23 16 10 39
J. Bailey 65 15 23 3 38
J. Boychuk 67 8 25 9 33
N. Leddy 73 10 21 14 31
T. Hamonic 67 5 26 16 31
J. Halak 36 16 2 .913 2.42
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08 is the official Web site of the New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and are trademarks of New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P.  NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

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