Washington Capitals (18-10-3; 1st SE) at New York Islanders (10-18-2; 5th ATL)
7 p.m. EST | Nassau Coliseum | Versus (Vs.?) (v.?)
[Updated with various injury clarifications] When the Islanders and Capitals last met, both teams were fighting an injury bug something fierce. The Caps took the occasion to teach the Islanders a little lesson in depth, launching the Isles into the current six-game losing streak (that's sans extra-time loser points, too).
Since that 5-2 loss in Washington, the Isles have been outscored 25-9 (Only outshot 152-135 though!). The Capitals, meanwhile, won 4 of 5 and welcomed back the kinds of fancy weapons one receives after years of missing the playoffs rather than squeaking into the 8th seed. Alas, as the Caps have finally started to get healthy, the Islanders have ... continued to dress 18 skaters:
On the injury front, Josh Bailey is day-to-day with a sprained ankle and Mike Sillinger is still day-to-day with a groin injury. Meanwhile, Nate Thompson has been placed on injured reserve and will be out 2-4 weeks with a fractured ankle.
So let's see... [sketches on napkin] ... that's three centers injured just since they landed in Columbus, plus centers Frans Nielsen and Mike Comrie out since last month ... Perfect! We're ready to go. Just put in a call to Yashin and no sweat. It is so on.
Now, it's the club's own collective and historical (i.e. not Garth Snow's) fault that the Isles don't have more depth to cover this plague. But still: take out five of the top six centers on the depth chart, and there will be blood. The center does not hold. It's tough to overcome that. Maybe Richard Park and Andy Hilbert will take their turns in the pivot, but that still leaves room for AHL forwards.
On the bright side, it's an opportunity to recall some of the bright young thangs who have lit up Bridgeport. [Update: They recalled Ben Walter, although it would have been Jeremy Colliton if he hadn't contracted the N.Y.-Conn. border flu.] Who that is, we should know this morning/afternoon. But for now, just know that though the future may be later, the on-going lab experiment is most definitely now.
And tonight, the experiment meets fierce firepower: As J.P. at Japers' Rink noted yesterday, the Caps are 8-0-0 in the last 8 games that included one Alex Semin, he of the 30 points in 19 games. Fritzy, go take out the Crosby-hatin' Alex. [Note: It is against official Lighthouse Hockey policy to send goons to take out stars ... but I understand.]
The only even existential issue the Capitals face is their goaltending. Not that it has been bad -- and in fact the future may be bright. But the starter they talked themselves into for this year is Jose Theodore, who has played with all the hormonal ups-and-downs one expects from Jose Theodore. Meanwhile, the backup Brent Johnson has been quite steady -- which is to say, better than Theodore.
But Johnson is the same Johnson who fell from talented rising star in St. Louis to traveling backup faster than you can drop a marmot in a bathtub. So when this otherwise loaded Capitals squad begins its inevitable playoff run, if Theodore is still Theodore and Johnson remains steady, then...
Like I said, it's an existential thing that has no bearing on tonight's game. Oh, to have such problems.