The Washington Times - March 13, 2012, 02:04PM

UNIONDALE, N.Y. | Reminding Matt Hendricks of the last time the Washington Capitals came to Nassau Coliseum isn’t a good idea.

I was trying to forget,” he said.

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That 5-3 loss on Nov. 6 was a game Bruce Boudreau pointed to as one of the first signs of trouble.

The Islander game where we lost 5-3 – I came into the dressing room [during intermission] and I said, ‘You guys are going to rue the day you lost this game. Remember this game. This game is going to come back to haunt you,’ ” the ex-coach recalled.

Back on Long Island, Tuesday night’s matchup at the New York Islanders is huge, as multiple players cited the need to build a cushion over the Buffalo Sabres following their victory Monday.

Couple that with the fact that the Islanders have won two of the three meetings this season, and had a lead until the final minutes of the other, and the Caps know what they’re up against.

We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box, all those little intangibles that help us win hockey games, help us be successful. I don’t know if they’ve had our number, but they play us tough every time we play them,” Hendricks said. “It’s a test for us tonight, in their building, which is a tough place to play. We’ve got to keep winning hockey games. That’s pretty much all our mindset is right now.”

The Florida Panthers’ game against the plummeting Toronto Maple Leafs is worth an eye in the scoreboard-watching department Tuesday night, and the Caps’ upcoming road trip at the Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings could decide their season.

We’re not looking that far ahead right now,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We’ve had a lot of trouble with the Islanders here so far this year. Tonight’s a very important game for us.”

The Islanders have lost seven of their last 10 and will be without second-leading scorer PA Parenteau, who has an upper body injury.

Players pointed to getting off to a good start, something Dale Hunter has stressed for a while now. That may be a bigger advantage than trying to draw from their comeback win over the Islanders on Feb. 28, which featured Brouwer scoring to salvage at least a point and Alex Ovechkin serving as the overtime hero.

We played a pretty good game. We had some good opportunities to score goals; we didn’t score,” Hendricks said. “Their goalie played big and Brouwer got two in the last minutes and Ovi won it in overtime. Is that going to happen all the time? no. we want to establish ourselves early like we have the last few games.”