Capitals-Islanders Preview

The New York Islanders closed the Nassau Coliseum with a playoff victory over the Washington Capitals. It was the Capitals, though, who eventually won the series and sent the Islanders packing to Brooklyn.

Washington now gets a look at the Islanders' new digs as the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division meet for the first time this season Thursday night.

New York beat the Capitals 3-1 in Game 6 of their opening-round playoff series April 25. That marked an emotional end to the Islanders' era in Nassau County after the Capitals won the series two days later.

Coach Barry Trotz expects a similar intensity in Washington's first visit to Barclays Center.

"I think it will be two very good hockey teams," Trotz told the Capitals' official website. "We met in the playoffs, and it will have a playoff feel, I think."

The Capitals (29-7-3) own the most points in the NHL and are comfortably leading the division by 12 over the Islanders (22-13-5).

"It's a good spot to be because they challenge you every night," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "I mean we have been in the position where we have played those top teams during the regular season and you always get up a little bit more for it because you want to test yourself and I think that's good for us."

Washington won nine straight before going 1-1-1 on this five-game road trip that ends Saturday against the Rangers.

The Capitals beat Boston 3-2 on Tuesday, three days after a stunning 5-4 shootout defeat to a Columbus team that has the fewest points in the league.

Alex Ovechkin is among the NHL leaders with 21 goals, but he's been held without a point for two straight games after scoring four times over the previous three.

He owns 46 points in 44 career meetings with the Islanders, including five in last year's playoffs.

Ovechkin will captain the division's team at the All-Star game in Nashville on Jan. 31, and he'll be joined by Holtby and center Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom has 10 points over the past seven road games, while Holtby leads the NHL in wins (25), goals-against average (1.93) and save percentage (.932). He posted a 1.63 GAA while starting six games against the Islanders in last year's playoffs.

New York has won three of four after beating Western Conference-leading Dallas 6-5 on Sunday.

"The key is to keep this going and peak at the right time," said forward Cal Clutterbuck, who had two goals.

The Islanders are expected to have Jaroslav Halak in net for the first time in six games after an upper-body injury landed him on injured reserve. He's 7-3-0 with a 2.22 GAA in 11 games in Brooklyn.

Halak played 12 games for Washington in 2013-14, and he's 5-4-0 with a 2.31 GAA in nine starts - including the playoffs - against his former team since signing with the Islanders.

John Tavares, New York's lone All-Star, has 20 points in 21 career regular-season matchups with the Capitals. He had six points in the playoff series.

The Capitals will be without forward Zach Sill, who will serve the first of a two-game suspension for hitting Boston's Adam McQuaid from behind.


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