Game 31 Preview: Caps at Montreal Canadiens

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, December 13, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (17-10-3-37, first in Southeast) travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens (16-7-5-37, second in Northeast) from Bell Centre at 7:00 PM.

The Caps should be flying high after trouncing the Ottawa Senators last evening 5-1, behind another stellar performance from goalie Brent Johnson, who made 34 saves in the effort.

Coach Bruce Boudreau announced this morning, however, that he was giving Johnson the night off and turning to 20-year old rookie Simeon Varlamov, recalled from Hershey yesterday following Jose Theodore's hip flexor injury suffered in the morning skate.

Washington is slowly getting its injured players back though, as Sergei Federov and Mike Green joined Tom Poti and Alexander Semin back on the ice after all missed significant time with various injuries.

The difference really showed last night against Ottawa. The recent call-ups did an admirable job filling in, but the talent level on the ice last night was readily apparent, as the passing was crisper and skating quite a bit more fluid.

Washington raised its record to 12-1-1 at home, the best in the Eastern Conference, with Friday's victory, but has played poorly on the road lately. The Capitals are 1-5-0 away from home since Nov. 20.

Montreal enters the game 5-2-3 in its last ten contests. They have five players with better than 20 points, and Robert Lang leads the squad with ten goals.

However, in Thursday's 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay, Montreal captain Saku Koivu left in the second period with a lower-body injury and didn't return. He was scheduled for an MRI and is expected to miss tonight's game.

Carey Price (13-4-7, 2.37, .920) is the Habs' starting netminder, but he in expected to miss the game as well with the flu. Jaroslav Halak (3-3-2, 2.42, .917) should be in net tonight.

Washington defeated Montreal at home 3-0 on Nov. 28 behind Jose Theodore's great game.

WAS: PP-5th (23.8%, 30/126); PK-22nd (79.9%, 29/144)
MON: PP-27th (13.8%, 18/130); PK-12th (82.3%, 23/130)

WAS: Tomas Fleischmann (undisclosed-Questionable); RW Chris Clark (Forearm-Out); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out);

MON: D Mathieu Dandenault (Arm-Out); LW Christopher Higgins (Upper body-Questionable); C Saku Koivu (Lower body-Doubtful); G Carey Price (Flu-Doubtful); D Mike Komisarek (Upper body-IR)