WASHINGTON – Barry Trotz knows Alex Ovechkin is going to become the eighth NHL player to reach 700 goals. He’s even betting his former captain eventually breaks Wayne Gretzky’s league record of 894 goals. The Islanders coach is just hoping he does not have to watch the Capitals’ superstar reach his next milestone in person.
The Islanders face the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals on Monday night at Capital One Arena to conclude a two-game trip that opened with a 3-1 loss to the Lightning on Saturday night.
The Islanders, in fourth place in the division and holding the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, are nine points behind the Capitals but just one point ahead of both the Hurricanes and Flyers. The Flyers, who beat the host Capitals, 7-2, on Saturday, face the visiting Panthers on Monday so the Islanders could find themselves out of a playoff position for the first time since mid-October with a regulation loss.
“We’re going to get their best game tonight because they’re going to come out hungry, they’re going to come out feisty and that’s going to raise our level,” said Islanders center Casey Cizikas, adding the task of containing Ovechkin is a hard one. “He’s a big body that moves extremely well out there and his release is quicker than anybody. We’ve got to try to limit his time and space and when he does have it, we’ve got to have guys backchecking and disrupting his movements. If we don’t do that, we’re going to be in for a long night.”
Ovechkin remains two goals shy of 700. Gretzky (Jan. 3, 1991), Jaromir Jagr (March 1, 2014) and Marcel Dionne (Oct. 31, 1987) all scored their 700th goal against the Islanders.
“I believe he’s the greatest goal scorer that’s ever played,” said Trotz, who coached Ovechkin and the Capitals from 2014 to 2018, winning a Stanley Cup in his final season in Washington. “If I was a betting man, I would bet on Ovi breaking that goal-scoring record. In my mind, there’s no doubt he’s going to do it.
“I’ve seen him get 500 and 600,” Trotz added. “Hopefully, I have to watch it on TV for 700.”
Ovechkin has 40 goals and 17 assists in 54 games this season and can become the second fastest in NHL history to reach 700 goals. Ovechkin will play in his 1,139th regular-season game while Gretzky reached 700 in 886 games.
The Capitals have won two of three from the Islanders this season – the Islanders won 4-3 at Washington on Dec. 31 – and rallied for five third-period goals in a 6-4 win at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 18.
“These games are important, you’re fighting for points,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, who will be able to play after being shaken up late in the third period of Saturday’s loss as the Lightning’s Alex Killorn drilled him into the boards. “We had that blow up in the third period the last game. It’s going to be important to stick to our game plan no matter what the score might be.”
“We’ve got to take care of the puck better,” Cizikas added. “We want them to come a full 200 feet and make them come through us, not have us turn the puck over and them have quick-chance opportunities. That’s what they’re so good at.”
The Islanders also face the Flyers on Tuesday night at the Coliseum, and Trotz will continue his goalie rotation for a fifth straight game as Thomas Greiss will start against the Capitals after Semyon Varlmaov made 27 saves on Saturday.
Based on the Islanders’ morning skate, burly left wing Ross Johnston will draw into the lineup for rookie Kieffer Bellows, who has two goals and an assist in his first three NHL games.
“They’re a big, heavy team,” Trotz said of the Capitals. “They’ve probably got a little snarl from their last home game.”
Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier is riding a five-game point streak, matching his career high, with three goals and three assists in that span.
Here are the projected lineups:
Anders Lee-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey
Ross Johnston-Derick Brassard-Michael Dal Colle
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Leo Komarov
Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk
Devon Toews-Ryan Pulock
Noah Dobson-Scott Mayfield
Thomas Greiss (15-7-2, 2.53 goals-against average, .920 save percentage)
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin-Lars Eller-Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Martin Fehervary-Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler-Nick Jensen
Ilya Samsonov (16-3-1, 2.19, .923)