It seems like an eternity since the Capitals saw the Islanders way back on Oct. 13 at Verizon Center. New York has a different head coach in Jack Capuano this time around and the Islanders have been doing well since late December, earning points in nine of their last 14 games.
The Islanders will also get an extra boost against the Capitals with the return of Kyle Okposo, who has missed every game so far this season with a shoulder injury, and Frans Nielsen, who missed the last seven contests with a nagging groin problem. Meanwhile, oft-injured goalie Rick DiPietro, who has a career record of 9-3-1, 2.09 goals-against average and.921 save percentage against the Capitals, will start in net for New York.
If there's one Islander some of the Capitals won't need to be introduced to, though, it's John Tavares. The Islanders' leading scorer was a teammate of John Carlson's in the OHL and also played with Karl Alzner on Canada's world junior squad.
"He's just deadly in the slot. I got so many points in junior just because I'd pass to him on the power play or whenever," Carlson said. "If he's in the slot, he's dangerous, and you have to always take care of him because he's going to find those soft spots and try to bite you.
"I've never seen someone pick the puck up out of someone's legs as good as he does," he continued. "You've just got to have a good stick on him. He's a little feisty in front of the net, so it's something you have to watch."
The general feeling about the Islanders is that they're a young team playing to improve -- what with 35 points and sitting in second to last place in the Eastern Conference -- but the Capitals maintain that with the starts they've been having, they can't afford to take any opponent for granted.
"It just comes down to work, it's always work in this building," Mike Knuble said. "It's easy to look at them and say they're a young team, they're inexperienced, and come up with all kinds of excuses and ideas when you look at their lineup. But traditionally, they play very hard.... If you're not ready to go from the drop of the puck, they'll make it extremely hard on you."