3 Keys: Islanders vs. Capitals, Game 1 of Eastern First Round


No. 6 Islanders vs. No. 3 Capitals


John Carlson will be a game-time decision for the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Islanders at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday.

A finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the player voted the best defenseman in the NHL, Carlson led defensemen and set NHL career-highs with 60 assists and 75 points in 69 games. He hasn’t played since leaving in the third period of Washington’s exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes on July 29 in Toronto, the East hub city.

As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.

New York defeated the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Game 4 on Friday to win its best-of-5 qualifier series and advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season.

Teams that win Game 1 are 478-219 (68.6 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series.

Here are 3 keys to Game 1:


1. Capitals need to hit the ground running

It’s imperative Washington matches the intensity New York is expected to have after winning its Stanley Cup Qualifier series. The Capitals were 1-1-1 during the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers and scored five goals in three games.

“We’re confident in our group, we’re confident in our leadership,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “Our team has a number of players that have been through this in terms of playoff hockey. What they haven’t been through is round-robin hockey, and that was something that was different; it’s a different intensity level than playoff hockey.

“I think that’s known by our players, they know that there’s another level that they can get to. That’s the experience factor that I think will help us to start Game 1 on Wednesday.”


2. Pelech and Pulock against Ovechkin

Islanders defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock played a huge role in holding Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby to one assist during a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs last season. Now they’re up against Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who tied for the NHL lead with 48 goals this season (David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins).

“It’s a similar situation with some of the talented players Washington has up front,” Pelech said. “We’re going to do our best, and hopefully we can do well and shut them down.”


3. Capitals vs. Islanders’ fourth line

New York’s fourth forward line of Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck prides itself on playing a physical style and taking the opposition off its game. It’s crucial that Washington doesn’t allow the three to rattle them.

“I think for us, we need our fourth line or third line or whoever the matchup is, we have to win that matchup,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. “We can’t let them become a factor, we can’t let them get to our [defnsemen], and that’s what they’re going to try to do.

“I think that’ll be a little bit of a game within the series, is how much we can take their speed away from their forecheck and how much we can make them play in their own end.”


Islanders projected lineup

Anders LeeMathew BarzalJordan Eberle

Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey

Derick BrassardJean-Gabriel PageauLeo Komarov

Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock

Devon ToewsScott Mayfield

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andrew Ladd, Sebastian Aho, Noah Dobson, Andy Greene, Thomas Hickey, Christopher Gibson

Unfit to play: None


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson

Jakub VranaNicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie

Carl HagelinTravis BoydIlya Kovalchuk

Richard PanikNic DowdGarnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny — John Carlson

Brenden DillonDmitry Orlov

Jonas SiegenthalerNick Jensen

Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek

Scratched: Philippe Maillet, Beck Malenstyn, Connor McMichael, Brian Pinho, Daniel Sprong, Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Radko Gudas, Tyler Lewington, Pheonix Copley

Unfit to play: Lars Eller


Status report

Boychuk, who was injured in Game 1 of the qualifier series against Florida, has participated in the past three practices and is expected to be available. … Eller, who left Toronto to be with his wife for the birth of their child, is back in the bubble but did not practice Tuesday and will not play.

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