The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals renew hostilities for the second half of a home-and-home that could either widen or narrow the 10-point gap between them in the Metropolitan Division's playoff standings.
Wednesday's was a tight affair, turning on power plays -- two converted by Alex Ovechkin to keep the Capitals' in for a share of the spoils, and one by John Tavares to give the Islanders' the NHL's magical third point that spontaneously conceives itself once two teams reach the 61st minute without declaring a winner.
For the first encounter of what could be a rivalry again, the Isles were particularly physical while also managing a better share of play. But the Capitals' effort under Barry Trotz, or the Islanders' own fatigue, definitely had the Isles missing passes, coughing up turnovers, and generally seeing too much separation from their forwards before the puck had properly left the zone.
It's a testament to where the Islanders are right now that they appeared "off" or even "sluggish" during Wednesday's game, despite again winning the 5-on-5 battle. One of the players who looked a little off, Johnny Boychuk, is out today. He's taken multiple "maintenance" days lately -- today he's ruled day-to-day with an "upper body" issue -- so his situation is to be monitored.
Curious, however, that the Isles continue to favor Brian Strait over Matt Donovan as Boychuk's replacement. For argument's sake, I'm looking for situational and objective areas to find Strait preferred over Donovan. Certainly one is older, "more experienced," and grows a meaner beard. The other seems far more tailored to the Islanders' quick puck-moving scheme, though granted that starts from the defensive end, where Donovan has his warts. But still...
Another significant change is in goal, where Chad Johnson will start instead of Jaroslav Halak, with the Islanders finishing a back-to-back at home tomorrow against the Devils.
Brooks Laich slots back into the lineup for the Capitals.
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