NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, February 4th (All times Eastern)
New York Islanders (21-28-8) at Washington Capitals (25-22-9), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders have lost ground in the NHL playoff race during a five-game slide and the club may have more bad news coming down the pike.
But first, the struggling club hopes to avoid a sixth consecutive setback on Tuesday when it visits the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.
In addition to posting an 0-4-1 record during its current slide, the Isles are also having difficulty convincing winger Thomas Vanek to stay with the club and New York may wind up trading the Austrian winger.
According to a report Monday in Newsday, Vanek, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, has turned down a "substantial contract offer" from the Isles. The report also says New York general manager Garth Snow is fielding offers from teams looking to acquire the 30-year-old forward.
Vanek was acquired from Buffalo in a trade on Oct. 27 and he has 15 goals and 38 points in 41 games with the Islanders after becoming part of a formidable top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.
If Vanek is dealt by the Isles, it will turn out to be a costly rental for the club. New York sent winger Matt Moulson to the Sabres along with a first-round pick in this summer's draft as well as a second-rounder in 2015 to land Vanek.
The NHL trade deadline for this season is March 5.
The Islanders went 10-3-0 from Dec. 29-Jan. 21 before losing five in a row. The club's last two losses came against the rival New York Rangers, who posted a 2-1 regulation win over the Isles in last Wednesday's outdoor game at Yankee Stadium before notching a 4-1 home win Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Derick Brassard and Brad Richards scored less than three minutes apart in the third period to support a strong effort from Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers' win over the Isles at MSG.
Okposo had the lone score for the struggling Islanders, while Evgeni Nabokov stopped 33-of-36 chances in defeat.
"We just looked like we ran out of gas," Tavares said. "We just didn't seem to have that extra gear when we needed it."
With 50 points, the Isles are currently 13th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference and 12 points out of a playoff spot.
Including tonight's tilt, New York has three games left before the NHL breaks for the Winter Olympics. After visiting Washington on Tuesday, the Isles will host Calgary and Colorado on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
After losing seven in a row from Jan. 12-24, Washington has recorded three wins over its last five games and is 3-1-1 during that stretch. The Capitals split a home-and-home series with Detroit over the weekend, losing Friday's road portion against the Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout before taking Sunday's wild 6-5 overtime decision at the Verizon Center.
Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal 2:37 into overtime to lift the Capitals to Sunday's entertaining matinee battle in D.C. Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith was called for tripping at the 1:26 mark of the extra session. The Capitals moved the puck around and John Carlson fed Ovechkin for a one-timer from the left circle.
Ovechkin has scored seven times over his last nine games and he is leading the NHL with 39 goals. His next goal will give Ovechkin 40 or more markers in a season for the sixth time in his career and for the first time since he posted 50 in 2009-10.
Joel Ward registered two goals and one assist on Sunday and Jason Chimera added a goal and two helpers for the Capitals, who overcame blowing a trio of two-goal leads to win for the third time in their last 12 games.
"We came out great and they never gave up; they are a really good hockey team," said Washington head coach Adam Oates.
Michal Neuvirth picked up the win despite surrendering five goals on 30 shots.
The Capitals expect to be without defenseman Mike Green for a third straight game after he suffered a concussion last week against Columbus. Green tried to practice on Monday, but he left for the dressing room after 10 minutes.
Washington forwards Mikhail Grabovski (sprained left ankle), Brooks Laich (groin), Eric Fehr (lower body) and Aaron Volpatti (upper body) are also questionable for tonight's contest.
The Caps, who are three points out of a playoff spot in the East, are 2-0 against the Islanders this season and have won three straight and five of the past seven games in this series. Washington is 8-2-1 in the past 11 encounters in D.C.
02/04 10:53:13 ET