Game 33 Preview: Caps Host St. Louis Blues

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 18, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (19-10-3-41, first in Southeast) host the St. Louis Blues (12-15-3-27, fifth in Central) at 7:00 PM from Verizon Center. This is the two clubs' only meeting in 2008-09.

Both teams have an extensive injury list and both teams like to play an up-tempo game, but that's about all that they have in common these days. Washington has won a season-high four games straight, while the Blues have dropped four in a row.

Though the Caps pulled out a last second win against the New York Islanders Tuesday, they did not play particularly well, especially in the third period when they surrendered two goals allowing the game to go to overtime. Thankfully for coach Bruce Boudreau, superstar left winger Alex Ovechkin took matters over, netting the game winner with 10.7 seconds remaining, after ringing one off the post a few seconds earlier.

With two more goals Tuesday, Ovechkin has crept up the scoring leader board and sits in third overall with 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists, +12). He trails only Pittsburgh's dynamic duo of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, with 49 and 44 points respectively. Ovechkin is the only player, however, to be in the top ten in both goals and assists.

On the injury front, several players remain out with no timetable for return. The most prominent of those has to be future hall-of-famer Sergei Federov.

Feds is nursing a sprained ankle that previously kept him out of 12 games, and has now cost him two more. He did not participate in yesterday's practice, and team officials did not speculate as to how long he would be out. Also missing practice and unavailable tonight are Eric Fehr (shoulder) and John Erskine (concussion), though Erskine appears close to a return.

Tyler Sloan (heel) and Jose Theodore (hip) practiced, but are questionable for tonight. Simeon Varlamov and Sean Collins will replace the duo if they are unable to go.

In a bit of good news, defenseman Brian Pothier skated in full gear yesterday before practice for the first time since his severe concussion last December. He in making strides in hopes of returning the Caps at some point this season, but his road back is a long one as he recuperates from post-concussion syndrome.

St. Louis is one of the league's worst defensive teams, allowing an average of 3.33 goals this season, including 5.25 during its four-game losing streak. They have been beset by injuries as well, missing up to six of their top 10 regular skaters.

Missing from the active roster include LW Paul Kariya, C Andy McDonald, C T.J. Oshie and Ds Eric Brewer and Jay McKee. Also, starting goalie Manny Legace was placed in the injured list with a concussion and will miss considerable time.

Brad Boyes lead the Blues in scoring with 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) but is a dismal -16, worst on the team. Veteran Keith Tkachuk has 12 goals.

Chris Mason handles the goalkeeping duties in Legace's place. Overall he's 3-10-1, 3.17, .903, and last time out on Tuesday versus Calgary he allowed six goals on 31 shots. He's 0-5-1 with a 4.45 GAA in his last six appearances.

WAS: PP-6th (23.3%, 31/133); PK-20th (80.3%, 31/157)
STL: PP-7th (22.6%, 31/137); PK-17th (81.0%, 26/137

WAS: RW Chris Clark (Forearm-Out); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-OUT); RW Eric Fehr (Shoulder-Questionable); D Tyler Sloan (Heel-Questionable); G Jose Theodore (Hip-Questionable)

STL: D Eric Brewer (Back-IR); D Jay McKee (Finger-IR); C T.J. Oshie (Ankle-IR); C Andy McDonald (Ankle-IR); LW Paul Kariya (Hip-IR); G Manny Legace (Head-IR); LW D.J. King (Shoulder-IR); D Erik Johnson (Knee-Out)