Capitals look to continue dominance vs. Isles

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By Anthony Giornalista

Stats Senior Writer

NY Islanders (25-41-9) at Washington (46-23-7), 7 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Another outstanding season from Alex Ovechkin

has put the Washington Capitals in contention for a top playoff

seed. They've been especially good against teams from the New

York metropolitan area.

Led by the league's leader in goals, the Capitals look to hold

on to second place in the Eastern Conference and sweep their

season series with the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

With six games remaining, Washington is a longshot to catch

Boston for first place in the East. The Capitals (46-23-7),

though, have a one-point lead over third-place New Jersey, which

is among the New York-area teams they've dominated.

Washington is 8-0-3 against those clubs, with Ovechkin posting

11 goals and nine assists. The star winger, who tops the NHL

with 53 goals, has found the back of the net five times while

adding two assists to lead the Capitals to a 3-0-0 record versus

the league-worst Islanders (25-41-9).

A win Wednesday would give Washington a sweep in the season

series for the first time since winning all four meetings in

2002-03.

Ovechkin enters this contest following a big game, scoring two

goals and adding two assists in a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on

Friday night, giving him 100 points on the season.

Ovechkin more than made up for the absence of winger Alexander

Semin (flu), expected to return after a one-game absence, but

Brian Pothier stole the spotlight.

The 31-year-old defenseman scored for the first time since a

long recovery from a concussion that nearly cost him his career,

breaking a 3-3 tie with 15:30 remaining in his fourth game back.

He experienced headaches and dizziness for nearly a year after

being checked into the boards against Boston on Jan. 3, 2008.

"It's been a while and really feels good," Pothier said. "I had

to hold back the emotion a little bit, but I feel like I'm

contributing. To put one in and an important goal was pretty

special."

Pothier's return has helped ease Washington's concerns about

blue-line depth. Any scoring from the veteran is purely a bonus

for the high-scoring Capitals.

New York would likely be even worse off without points from

defenseman Mark Streit, who has 16 goals and 39 assists. The

only other defenseman that leads their team in scoring is

Montreal's Andrei Markov, who played alongside Streit for three

seasons with the Canadiens.

No other Islander has more than 36 points, while Washington has

six players with at least that many.

New York ranks near the bottom of the league in goals per game,

averaging 2.48, but played Philadelphia tough in a 4-3 overtime

loss Saturday night. Streit, Radek Martinek and Jeff Tambellini

scored for the Islanders, who beat NHL-leading Detroit 2-0 the

previous evening.

Though it's been a rough season, New York has been able to give

younger players some experience and is confident it's headed in

the right direction.

Kyle Okposo, a 20-year-old winger, has been particularly

impressive, posting five goals and eight assists in the last 11

games.

"We've been playing a lot better," said Okposo, selected seventh

overall in the 2006 draft. "We know we can win with the guys in

this locker room."

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