Pre-game primer: Southeast lead on the line

Pre-game primer: Southeast lead on the line
April 4, 2013, 6:45 pm
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News and notes as the 10th-place Capitals [17-17-2, 36 points] get set to face the 9th-place Islanders [18-16-3, 39 points] tonight [6:30 p.m., Caps Central, CSN]:

What it means: If the Caps win tonight and the Winnipeg Jets lose in Montreal, the Caps would take over the Southeast Division lead and vault from 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings to third place, by virtue of having one game in hand on the Jets. If the Caps lose in regulation and the Flyers win in Toronto, the Caps would slip to 11th in the conference standings.

Erat’s debut: With left wing Marcus Johansson racking up 12 points in his last 10 games on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin; and with Brooks Laich playing well on a second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer, Caps coach Adam Oates opted to put left-handed shooting newcomer Martin Erat on a third line with center Mathieu Perreault and right wing and former Nashville teammate Joel Ward.

Goal-scoring race: Tonight’s game features two of the NHL’s top five goal scorers. New York’s John Tavares ranks second in the league with 23 goals, two behind Tampa’s Steve Stamkos. Alex Ovechkin is in a three-way tie for third with Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz and L.A.’s Jeff Carter, all with 20 goals.

Taming Tavares: In each of their previous two contests this season, the Islanders beat the Caps on game-winning goals by Tavares. The Isles rallied for a 5-2 win on Long Island on March 9 and beat the Caps in their last visit to D.C. on March 26 with a 3-2 victory. Tavares has three goals in the two games.

Roster moves: The Caps sent newly signed defenseman Nate Schultz to the Hershey Bears and recalled Steve Oleksy, who went to Hershey in a paper transaction on Wednesday. Oleksy will play alongside veteran John Erskine on the Caps’ third pairing. Karl Alzner and Mike Green will remain together on the top unit and Jack Hillen and John Carlson will lineup up as the second pair. Jeff Schultz is expected to be a healthy scratch.

Fehr back in: Eric Fehr will return to the lineup on a fourth line with center Jay Beagle and Mat Hendricks after missing the last four games with an upper body injury. With the return of Fehr, the Caps are as healthy as they’ve been all season, with only Tom Poti on the inured list.

Going camouflage: The Caps wore camouflage jerseys during warmups. The jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds going to TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. The Caps will pay tribute to military members throughout the game.

What’s ahead: The Caps will pratice at Kettler on Friday, then head to southern Florida for a Saturday night game against the Panthers. They’ll return home to face the Lightning on Sunday night.