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New York Islanders at Washington Capitals: An important road [Game #76]

The Isles will return to New York in between, but tonight starts an important road stretch with the most vulnerable opponent of the next three games.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Palmieri has come alive.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Eastern Conference wild card race has pretty much delivered this season, providing a tight group down the stretch where teams competed by tripping over their toes.

It’s tapered off now with under 10 games to go, as teams like tonight’s hosts, the Washington Capitals, have probably stumbled one too many times. Credit them for hanging in it well after their general manager gave up on the season though, and if they manage to win these two upcoming meetings in regulation, they will really make the Isles sweat.

Plus the race is technically not over for the Caps yet: Though they enter tonight nine points behind the Isles, they are six behind the Penguins, who are doing their best to prove beyond all doubt that Ron Hextall is out of his element. Sure, there are three other teams between the Caps and that second wild card spot, but equally crazy things occasionally happen.

Boy, what a minimal and sorrowful difference six weeks make:

As far as tonight’s roster, no news is the same news for the Islanders:

For the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin is on a four-game goal streak and up to 42 on the season, while fortunate Long Island son(ny) Milano is day-to-day dealing with an injury.

The U.S. broadcast is on TNT — and in a flip of the script from the old Comcast days, this time the Islanders’ announcer has the call. There are only two other games on the NHL schedule tonight, but one of them is the Florida Panthers in Toronto. As Steve noted in the morning bits when recounting various wild card chasers’ self-inflicted wounds, if the Cats can’t scratch the Leafs, the Isles will be sitting very pretty when tonight’s over.