Monday's trade deadline came and went, and the Capitals added no help to the team down the stretch. This roster can now just go out and play and not have to worry about rumors swirling, and possible movements. A relaxed group of hockey players going out there every night to earn a playoff spot is what the Caps should look like for the final 20 games of the regular season. Sitting just 1 point out of the playoffs the Capitals need to win and they need to win now.
Coming in on a 2 game winning streak the Caps start their biggest home-stand of the season with 5 straight at the Phone Booth in DC. Tonight they face-off against the New York Islanders, a team they have yet to beat this season in 2 previous match-ups. The Islanders had a come from behind 5-3 win in NY and shutout the Caps in DC 3-0. Safe to say the Caps need that to change tonight to get this home-stand started off right with a victory.
For the Caps it's the same team we've been watching as Nicklas Backstrom remains out and Mike Knuble, Roman Hamrlik, and John Erskine will be healthy scratches. The veterans can't be pleased about sitting but you have to hope they continue to be veteran leaders and don't let it effect the way they are in the locker room. The veterans need to be all in and help lead this team if they are to make the playoffs this year. Secondary scoring will also be needed for the Caps tonight and down the stretch. The Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer types have to start putting the puck in the net and taking some of the pressure off of Ovechkin and Semin. Michal Neuvirth has been providing solid goal-tending for the Caps lately, and in front of him the defense has been solid since the return of Mike Green. Since his return Green has paired with Jeff Schultz and the 2 have been a solid duo for the Caps helping to keep other teams top lines in check.
For the Islanders Monday's trade deadline did produce a trade as they sent veterans Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau to Boston for a pair of minor league prospects. The Isles sit 7 points out of the playoff race and seem to be looking towards next season. They have a solid group of quality young forwards like Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, and rookie Nino Niederreiter. Along the backline they have young Travis Hamonic mixed with veterans like Mark Streit, Steve Staios, and former Cap Milan "Juice" Jurcina. They're an up tempo team that can skate with anybody and will work hard along the boards, and push the pace of the game. They get quality net-minding from veteran Evgeni Nabokov and journeyman goalie Al Montoya.
The goal-tending match-up tonight will see the Isles give the nod to Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov has owned the Capitals during his career with a 10-1 record in 11 starts and a 1.99 goals against average, and a .958 save percentage. For the Caps they have not announced the starter yet but a safe bet would be Michal Neuvirth who is 3-0 against the Isles in his career with a 1.99 goals against average, and a .933 save percentage. The Caps have to find a way to beat Nabokov early and play with the lead. The Caps are a completely different team when they score first they seem to play relaxed, however if they trail first they seem to lose confidence immediately. The goal-tending match-up should be fun to watch tonight, if you're a fan of high-scoring games this probably won't be enjoyable for you.
PLAYERS TO WATCH TONIGHT:
Michael Neuvirth - He has played great against the Isles in his career, it has to continue tonight for the Caps to get these crucial 2 points.
Evgeni Nabokov - As I said Nabokov has owned the Caps, no reason to think it will change tonight, but I hope it does.