The New York Islanders visit the Washington Capitals with a chance to clinch a playoff spot and take a bit of the pressure off their busy final week of the regular season. They'll do it while missing a few more bodies, with a new face in net whose opposite number is chasing some history.
First, the injury situation. It is complex though not quite devastating:
- Most already knew Jaroslav Halak and Travis Hamonic were out for the regular season and then some, with Mikhail Grabovski skating but also out an indefinite time.
- Jean-Francois Berube is also day-to-day, with Christopher Gibson recalled in his place and Thomas Greiss, who started last night. The buried lede here? Gibson gets tonight's start in goal, his first-ever NHL start and second-ever NHL appearance.
- Calvin de Haan is feared out at least for tonight after a shot to the knee last night, but during the 4:45 scrum Jack Capuano declined to rule him out. Scott Mayfield was recalled as the extra defenseman for this trip, because sometimes you wake up to find a defenseman has thoracic outlet syndrome.
- Cal Clutterbuck, who wrenched a knee or ankle during a crash into the corner boards last night, is like de Haan a "game time decision."
It's as if it's playoff time already. Intrigue and secrecy abounds. (Except for Gibson. His news is out in time to talk to family.)
Islanders (43-26-9, 4th/Metro) @ Capitals (55-17-6, 1st/Everything)
7 p.m. EDT | MSG+2 (twice the plus!)
[Ma Bell's giant offspring] Center
Coasting: Japers' Rink
The Capitals, who locked up the Metro and President's Trophy unimaginably early, nonetheless still have something to play for: Braden Holtby is gunning to tie the NHL record for most goalie victories in a season. Get him that tonight at home, break it with another win, and then they can net-fix and chill until the playoffs begin.
The Caps have cooled off lately, results-wise, but their underlying numbers are still strong (and much better than recent puck luck). May they be cursed one more night (and one more playoffs, while we're at it).
The Islanders can clinch a playoff spot with a win, which would be helpful as they continue a five-in-seven finish to the season. Sunday's finale with Philadelphia could mean nothing, or it could mean a playoff spot, or it could mean who gets to not face Washington or Pittsburgh in the first round.
(The Isles can also clinch if free-falling Boston loses tonight in regulation.)
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks over here.