Saturday, March 3, 2007

Caps/Islanders Preview

New York Islanders (32-23-9, 73 points)
Washington Capitals (24-29-12, 60 points)

Television: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 7:00 PM ET

Richard Zednik will not have to wait long to make his return to the Verizon Center as he and his new teammates from the New York Islanders travel to Washington tonight. The game will mark the end of Washington's current four game homestand. They'll begin a stretch that will see 9 of their next 13 games on the road when they visit Toronto on Tuesday.

The Islanders were one of the biggest buyers at the trading deadline as they picked up Zednik along with Alberta native and former Oiler Ryan Smyth. The moves signify the club's intentions of making a serious run in the post-season this year. Before Thursday night's loss against St. Louis in overtime, the Islanders had won 4 games in a row and 6 of their last 7. As of today they find themselves in seventh place in the conference and in the middle of a highly competitive race with Carolina, Montreal, and Toronto for one of the final playoff spots.

As if the Caps were not short handed enough following their trades of Zednik and Zubrus at the deadline, the team lost two more of it's regular forwards in Thursday night's shootout loss to Tampa. Matt Pettinger is likely out for the season with a broken thumb, while Boyd Gordon is out at least two weeks with a knee injury. That leaves the team with only three healthy centers as they chose to only recall Alexandre Giroux from Hershey. The Caps will now dress 7 defenseman and just 11 fowards as the extra ice time will most likely go to double shifting Ovechkin and Semin.

Ovechkin now has 8 points in his last 4 games after putting up only 2 points in his previous 9 games. It seems like his slump is behind him now, which is good news for the Caps because besides Ovechkin and Semin, the only players to dress tonight that have more than 20 points on the season are defenseman Brian Pothier and center Kris Beech.

The key to the game will be whether or not the Caps supporting cast can contribute offensively and whether the Caps defenseman can shut down the Islanders newly acquired snipers.

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