Upcoming games: Islanders, December 26, 7:00 p.m.; @ Capitals, December 28, 7:30 p.m.; @ Panthers 7:30 p.m.
New York Islanders (28 points, 14th place, 11-16-6)
The Isles will head back to MSG looking to snap a two game losing streak. Brandon Dubinsky scored his first goal in more than a month while Martin Biron stopped 24 shots to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 victory over their New York rivals last Thursday. PA Parenteau and Matt Moulson scored power play goals for the Isles. The following night the Islanders were outscored again 5-3 at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov allowed seven goals over his last two starts. The net remains an injury plagued sore spot for the team. Rick DiPietro has missed nine games with a groin strain and Al Montoya is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion last week against the Winnipeg Jets. The Islanders are 4-5-1 in their last ten games and 1-2 against the Rangers this season.
Washington Capitals (36 points, 10th place, 17-14-2)
The Capitals continue to struggle to find a groove despite a fresh start with new coach Dale Hunter. They are 5-4-1 over their last ten games and sinking out of the playoff picture. Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 34 points while left winger Jason Chimera leads in goals with 13. Captain Alex Ovechkin is still uncharacteristically searching for the sweet spot in net as he has just 11 goals in 33 games and three points in his last five games. Big free agent signee Tomas Vokoun hasn’t lived up in net. Vokoun’s 12-8 record overall and 2-3 record over his last five starts pushed Michael Neuvirth right off of the bench and into the crease of late. Since December 15, Neuvirth posted a 2-1-1 record. He made 28 saves in the Caps 4-3 shootout loss to the Devils on December 23. The Rangers routed the Capitals 6-3 back in November led by Ruslan Fedotenko’s two goals and Ryan Callahan’s three assists.
Florida Panthers (43 points, 3rd place, 18-11-7)
After the Panthers suffered an embarrassing 8-0 beating by the Bruins on Friday and played for a 4-3-3 record in their last ten games, they are at a crossroads. If the mediocre inconsistent play continues they could lose their comfy spot near the top of the Eastern Conference. They still lead the Southeast division by six points. Right winger Kris Versteeg leads the team with 16 goals and 37 points. Center Stephen Weiss is first on the team with a +18 rating and fifth in the league in total faceoffs won with 359 (54.2 percent). The Rangers are 1-1 against the Panthers this season. The last time the teams met on December 11, the Rangers dominated 6-1 after scoring two power play goals in the first period and orchestrating a four goal outburst in the second. The Panthers are 8-3-5 on home ice.