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
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
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
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
“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.”