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New York Islanders Gameday: A chance to finish the Capitals

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The Capitals are arguably dead already, but tonight presents a chance to roll them to the coroner.

"Men's synchronized defense isn't even in the Olympics yet. But that's okay, because we could use the time."
"Men's synchronized defense isn't even in the Olympics yet. But that's okay, because we could use the time."
Patrick Smith

The Washington Capitals' fragile playoffs took another big hit last night with a 2-1 loss in New Jersey, allowing the Devils to leap them in the chase for the East's wild card spots. Washington is four points behind Columbus, but given the Caps' low number of regulation/overtime wins (the first tiebreaker), they're essentially five points out with five games to go.

For them, tonight versus the New York Islanders is critical.

It's an early start (5 p.m. EDT) at the Coliseum, with enough narratives swirling around the Capitals to make this an ugly day for them if things go awry. To wit:

So yeah, tonight could be fun. The Caps are just about done already, but if the Isles beat them and they go 0-for-2 on this New York swing ... well, two of their remaining opponents are the Blues and Blackhawks.

Game Notes
  • Jaroslav Halak played for Washington last night, stopping 29 of 31.
  • No Jack Hillen reunion. He's out hurt.
  • Michael Grabner is nearing a return after practicing yesterday, though it would seem to be unnecessarily quick to put him in tonight.
  • UPDATE: The docs say play. The coach has him in. Grabner returns to the lineup, lining up with Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck, replacing Johan Sundstrom. (Also: Evgeni Nabokov starts. You know, he was a Cap killer in a former life.)
  • Of course, if and when he returns, one of the six rookie forwards is likely to sit out. However, both Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck sat out practice Friday with "maintenance."
  • You know it won't be Ryan Strome sitting out. He's really come along nicely with his latest recall -- he's shown impressive defensive tenacity, which has helped set up transition. Here's a Q&A with the official site.
  • FIG Picks: Leave your picks for the First Islanders Goal here.
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