The NHL wanted more rivalries, to pepper up the game a little bit. It's all apart of being fan friendly, to make the game much more exciting. For the Capitals, that means a little over a third of all their games this season is against the Southeast Division.
32 games agianst the Panthers, Lightening, Hurricanes, and Thrashers. It so important, more now than ever for the Capitals to take away those points from their rivals. Something they haven't done at all this season. The Caps are only 1-5 so far against teams they have to face another 26 times.
Even if the Capitals fair poorly agianst the Southest Division, there are 50 other games they have to play. 38 of those agianst Eastern Conference teams. The Capitals are second to last in the Conference (only the Penguins are worst), and are playing in the worst division in the Eastern Conference.
Only Carolina has a winning record agianst other teams in the east (3-1). Florida (2-3), Tampa Bay (1-2-1), and Atlanta (1-3) have not been able to pull many wins out of the Atlantic and Northeastern Divisions. Washington is 1-1.
That makes playing division rivals very important for the Washington Capitals. If they can take points away from teams that may not be able to pick up agianst the Eastern Conference, then the Capitals can make a run to improve their situation.
No one feels very confident that the Caps are going to be making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. However, they can take points from their rivals, and at the very least make the race for first in the Southeast interesting.
The Capitals need to make these games count now, to play their very best agianst their divisional foes. It pushes the Caps into the mind set of how important it is to take points from their division. They may not make any headway this season, but it will be crucial for next season.