(AP) — Despite sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Washington Capitals had enough confidence in their current players not to make a move before the NHL trade deadline.
Washington seeks a third straight victory Tuesday when it opens a five-game homestand Tuesday night against a New York Islanders team which has already defeated the Capitals twice in 2011-12.
The Capitals (31-26-5) have won the last four Southeast Division titles but are currently ninth in the East, one point behind Winnipeg for the eighth seed but also only three points back of Florida for the division lead and third seed.
Though his team continues to play without top center Nicklas Backstrom, general manager George McPhee chose to stand pat at Monday’s deadline.
“We would have added something to the team if we thought it would make us better, but it had to make us better, and what transpired (Monday) really there wasn’t anything there that really would have been the right thing for our team,” McPhee said.
“We can make the playoffs with this team. And if (Backstrom) comes back, we can beat anybody in this conference.”
The Capitals are showing signs of coming around after a 1-5-1 slump. One night after cruising to a 4-1 win over Montreal, Washington prevailed 4-2 at Toronto on Saturday.
“We’ve got the same team we had at the start of the season,” defenseman Dennis Wideman told the Capitals’ official website. “We had expectations to do really good this year and make a push. We’ve had some ups and downs this year and haven’t had the regular season success that we want, but I think if we keep playing the way we’ve played the last couple of games and get a little bit better yet heading into the playoffs, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
The Capitals could certainly get on a roll with five in a row on home ice. Washington’s 20-8-2 home record is tied for second-best in the East.
“We play as well as anybody at home and we’ve just got to make sure that continues, that we get those home points,” center Brooks Laich said.
“Everybody seems to be winning at home, you’ve got to get those points at home.”
While the Islanders (26-28-8) may not appear to be the most formidable of opponents, they’ve outscored Washington 8-3 to win both matchups thus far in the season series, including a 3-0 victory Jan. 17 in the nation’s capital.
Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 17 saves in that contest, improving to 10-1-0 with two shutouts and a 1.99 GAA lifetime against Washington.
The Capitals had gone 11-0-1 versus New York over the previous three seasons.
The Islanders have dropped three of four overall including a 5-2 loss Sunday at Ottawa. Aside from John Tavares’ goal and P.A. Parenteau’s two points, New York failed to get much going.
“We’ve got to take a little more pride in our game and get back to our foundation, where it was at the start of the year. Some of the guys should look in the mirror and know they could have worked a little harder tonight and been a little stronger on the puck at times,” said coach Jack Capuano, whose team trails the Jets by eight points.
“You can’t look back though and you have to look forward. This next week is going to be huge.”
New York sent Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau to Boston on Monday in exchange for prospects Marc Cantin and Yannick Riendeau.