NHL on NBCSN: Islanders look to pull Capitals into their nightmare

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New York Islanders at the Verizon Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

These are dark days for the Islanders. The forward momentum their franchise gained from finally making the playoffs last year seems to have been squandered. Their 10-3-0 run certainly has been over the course of their five game losing streak.

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It looks like teams will require around 90 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. If that’s the case then the Islanders need to get 40 points in their final 25 games, which obviously translates to a 20-5-0 record. Even if you assume that they won’t lose another game in regulation all season, the Islanders would still need to win a minimum of 17 contests.

So realistically, they’ve already missed the playoffs and to add insult to injury, they will probably lose Thomas Vanek too. Although New York gave up Matt Moulson, a first-round pick, and a second rounder to get him, the 30-year-old forward is expected be traded after he reportedly rejected the Islanders’ substantial offer.

With little hope and a team that’s likely to get worse before the season’s over, the Islanders don’t have much left to play for. Personal pride certainly has to rank high on their list of reasons to still give it their all. The belief, no matter how irrational, that they still have a shot, is likely another one. And for tonight, the desire to exact some measure of revenge against a Capitals’ squad that’s already beaten them twice this season.

Washington’s situation isn’t nearly as bleak as the Islanders. The Capitals are still very much in the battle for a playoff spot, but they’ve also watched their position degrade to the point where they’re on the outside looking in after their 6-9-6 run.

The Capitals managed to earn a 6-5 overtime win Sunday afternoon on the strength of an Alex Ovechkin marker and this has the potential to be an equally high scoring game. Washington netminders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth haven’t been great lately and the Islanders’ goaltending has been consistently bad all season.

At the same time, these squads are certainly capable of putting on a show against anyone. That’s thanks in part to Ovechkin and John Tavares, but also do to their supporting casts that include the likes of Nicklas Backstrom in Washington and, at the time of writing, Vanek in New York.

Regardless of what type of game this evolves into, these two points will be critical for the Capitals. They haven’t drifted into the Islanders’ nightmare yet, but they need to move away from their lengthy slump if they want to keep it that way.