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PREVIEW: New York Islanders want to see more toughness against Washington Capitals

Jan 24, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save during the third period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) makes a save during the third period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders continue a five-game road trip Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the first of two games against the short-handed Capitals.

New York is coming off of a 2-0 loss at New Jersey on Sunday. The Devils scored both goals in the first period, and that turned out to be enough in the first game of the Islanders’ trip.

The Islanders did not play tough enough to appease coach Barry Trotz, who guided the Capitals to the Stanley Cup three years ago.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Islanders, check out #Isles rumors, rankings, and news here.

“We weren’t willing to get greasy enough to get one in,” Trotz said. “We made it too easy on them. We were on the perimeter just as much as (Devils coach Lindy Ruff) talked about his team not being able to get in the inside or didn’t want to get on the inside (in New York’s 4-1 win Thursday).

“We didn’t do enough of that early in the game. We did it more in the third. It was more the things we have to do that we couldn’t find the back of the net.”

One positive for New York was that rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin finished with 22 saves in just his second NHL start.

One negative was that Anthony Beauvillier came out of the game early in the second period after taking a hit from Nathan Bastian. Beauvillier did not return and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

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The pandemic and other issues are forcing Washington to skate without at least five of its best players.

In Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo, the Capitals played without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov as well as goalie Ilya Samsonov — all on the COVID-19 list. Tom Wilson missed Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury that happened during Friday’s win against the Sabres.

That hurt Washington for obvious reasons, but rookie goalie Vitek Vanecek came up big Sunday at Buffalo. He made 45 saves on 48 shots and is now unbeaten in his first four NHL starts (2-0-2). The rookie became just the fifth first-year goalie in franchise history to make at least 45 saves in a game, the first since Al Jensen in February 1982.

Washington coach Peter Laviolette said Vanecek has made a strong case to keep the starting spot.

“We were looking for someone to grab the crease,” Laviolette said. “I said this would play itself out. So Vitek has had a few good games now, and tonight was another one where he gave us an opportunity to win. And we didn’t, but he gave us an opportunity to get a point, so he’s making the most of his chance.”

Related: If you’re a fan of the Capitals, check out #ALLCAPS rumors, rankings, and news here.

Capitals rookie Connor McMichael, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, made his first NHL appearance on Sunday. The 20-year-old forward played 9:54 and registered one shot and two penalty minutes.

–Field Level Media