Carolina had an opportunity to be six points ahead of the Caps. Too bad that didn't happen. The Caps are still three points behind the Southeast leaders, but they also have 3 extra games to make up as well. While some say the team is hurting bad without their captain Rod Brind'Amour, this is a team that has won the Stanley Cup. Don't look for a sit down just yet.
The Caps face the Islanders tonight at the phone booth. The Islanders will be with out the services of Any Sutton thanks to a torn hamstring. He tore it on a hit in Long Island's inspired win over the San Jose Sharks. What might be more significant is that Ilse are only a point above the Capitals in the Eastern Conference. The Caps not only have a chance to put pressure on Carolina, but can also strive closer to a playoff spot with out winning the division.
Ahead of the Caps are the NY Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, Philly Flyers and the Boston Bruins. All are with in 4 points of one another in the standings that span from 11th up to 7th place. Also Atlanta is tied with the Caps at 62 points and will also be pressuring for playoff action. Of those three teams ahead of the Caps only one has a solid win record of 6-2-2 in their last ten, Buffalo. The other two seem beatable down the stretch, especially the Flyers who are 2-7-1 in their last 10. Because the race for first in the Southeast is so close, the possibility of the Caps eclipsing two teams for 8th place is plausible.
Of course the Capitals don't want to settle for sneaking in the back door of the playoffs. Neither do the Fans. We all want home ice advantage for the first round. There are good signs that might be in our future as well. For one, Alex Ovechkin is over his little stomach flu and will be at 100%. Olie Kolzig has been on fire since Christmas and his confidence level (which has always been a barometer for the team's moral) is growing. Alex Semin is getting his scoring touch back, hopefully so do Tomas Fleischmann, Matt Pettinger and Boyd Gordon. And the Caps have been winning with out Micheal Nylander, Chris Clark and Brian Potheir. Three Vets that did lead the team in ice time now all out.
First and foremost though, the Caps must keep winning.