Islanders-Capitals Preview

The Associated Press

While the Washington Capitals look to continue their recent strong play during a brief home stop, the New York Islanders hope to build on their latest victory by remaining solid on the road.

Both in the mix for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals try for a season-high fourth consecutive victory while looking to keep the Islanders from a third straight road win Tuesday night.

Washington (15-16-1) opened a four-game trip with a 2-1 road loss to streaking Pittsburgh, then won the next three by outscoring Winnipeg and the New York Rangers 13-3.

"This is what we've got to do, if you're going to fight for a playoff spot,'' said forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored in regulation and had the shootout winner in Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Rangers. "We've got to keep working every game. We're playing better."

The Capitals and Islanders (14-15-3) each have 31 points, two behind the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the East.

"We've been playing good hockey for a while,"said Washington coach Adam Oates, whose team has won five of seven since losing three in a row. "Desperation or solid hockey, I'm not quite sure. Obviously the points are important for everybody."

After yielding 14 goals in three games, the Islanders concluded a 1-3-0 homestand with a 3-0 victory over lowly Florida on Sunday.

"We needed a win," center John Tavares told the team's official website. "Games are starting to quickly tick down and we need the wins. It's good to finish it the right way and get ready for a big road trip."

New York is 6-11-2 at home but 8-4-1 on the road, where it's won four of five. The Islanders open a four-game trip Tuesday and play 11 of their final 16 away from Nassau Coliseum.

"We have to get on a roll and (winning Sunday is) the best way to start it,'' said New York's Evgeni Nabokov, who made 26 saves for his second shutout in five starts. "We worked hard and we have confidence in ourselves. We look forward to the challenge of what's ahead.''

Tavares scored twice, Brad Boyes had two assists and Nabokov stopped 22 shots in a 5-2 home win over Washington on March 9. The Capitals, however, have gone 6-1-1 in their last eight home games versus New York.

Washington heads back out on the road for three games after this contest.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has six goals and three assists during a five-game point streak. Scoring Tuesday will give him goals in six straight contests for the first time since a six-game run Jan. 13-23, 2008.

Ovechkin was held without a point on Long Island earlier this month, but he has recorded at least one goal in six of seven home games against New York.

Teammate Braden Holtby has allowed five goals while winning three of four. He gave up nine in dropping two of his previous three.

Nabokov, who has posted shutouts in two of his last four road starts, is 11-1-2 with a 2.19 goals-against average against the Capitals.

Tavares has six goals and three assists in 10 games. He's scored four of his six career goals versus Washington in the last two meetings.

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