Ovi back at practice, Oates makes line changes
News and notes as the Capitals [7-7-0] take on the New York Islanders [6-5-3] at Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN].
Mo-vechkin: Alex Ovechkin will return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games with an upper body injury. “I feel fresh,” he said. “Of course you don’t want to miss two games, but it happens and I’m back and I’m pretty happy. I hope me coming back doesn’t do something bad to the team.” Ovechkin is sporting a mustache for the first time in his career in an effort to raise health awareness among men. “First time I did it,” he said. “I feel weird, but it’s fun.”
Beating Nabokov: Islanders 38-year-old goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has gone 12-1-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .926 save percentage in his career against the Capitals. “He does everything well,” Ovechkin said. “He knows European hockey as well. He’s a guy who can win a game by himself. If we put pressure on him we’ll be fine.” Nabokov [5-3-3] has won three of his last four starts.
Division battle: The Capitals and Islanders are both coming off back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday nights. The Caps are one point behind the Islanders and can gain sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division with a regulation win tonight. Under the NHL’s new playoff format the top three teams in each division make the playoffs. The Islanders are coming off a big 3-1 win over the Bruins behind goalie Kevin Poulin, who earned his first win of the season.
Who’s hot: For the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom has three goals and one assist in his past two games without Ovechkin. The Isles are led by Kyle Okposo [4-13-17], Frans Neilsen [8-8-16] and John Tavares [6-9-15]. Thomas Vanek has three points in three games since being acquired from the Sabres. “Last year going into the playoffs I thought they were by far the most underrated team,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said, “and to be quite honest, when I saw them matched up against Pittsburgh I thought they were the team that could give them a tough time. Tavares works as hard as anyone in the league.”
Holt-beast: Holtby’s shutout over the Flyers was his eighth shutout in his 68 NHL games. Among active goalies only Steve Mason , Antti Niemi  and Pekka Rinne  have recorded more shutouts in their first 68 NHL games. “Before, our wins we were kind of all over the place and just winning if we scored a lot of goals,” Holtby said. “These last two games we showed a lot more structure. Every line is playing the same style of game.”
Shootout snipers: With their shootout win over the Panthers the Caps are now 3-0 in shootouts this season and 6-0 in shootouts under head coach Adam Oates dating back to last season.
Marty Erat – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich – Marcus Johansson – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
Alex Urbom – Steve Oleksy
Braden Holtby [starter] – Michal Neuvirth
Thomas Vanek – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Josh Bailey – Frans Nielsen - Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Michael Grabner - Peter Regin – Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas - Brock Nelson
Andy MacDonald – Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey – Matt Carkner
Matt Donovan – Radek Martinek
Evgeni Nabokov [starter] – Kevin Poulin