Game 62 Preview: Washington Hosts Atlanta Thrashers

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, February 26, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (38-18-5-81, first in Southeast) host the Atlanta Thrashers (22-33-6-50, fifth in Southeast) at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.

The Capitals have split the first four games of a season-high five-game homestand, beating Montreal and Pittsburgh and falling to Colorado and, most recently, Philadelphia Tuesday night 4-2. The Caps held a 2-0 lead against Philly, only to see it evaporate in the span of 3:19 in the third period.

Atlanta beat Colorado at home Tuesday 4-3, but had dropped their previous two games, to Phoenix and San Jose. The Thrashers are 5-4-1 in their last ten games.

Atlanta has some skilled players, led by Ilya Kovalchuk. His 64 points (31 goals, 33 assists, minus-14) are good for 13th in the NHL. Winger Slava Kozlov (18-34-52, minus-16) and center Todd White (15-37-52, minus-10) round out their top three scorers.

The Thrashers have given up 214 goals this season, second-most in the league, and have allowed 18 goals in the last four meetings with Washington. Goalies Kari Lehtonen (12-18-4, 3.15, .908) and Johan Hedberg (7-9-3, 3.61, .884) have been below par this season, and their defensive squad gives up more shots than all but three teams in the league.

Washington expects to get RW Viktor Kozlov back on its first line tonight. The veteran Russian forward has missed nine games with a groin strain and is eager to get back with his linemates Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom.

"It's been hard," Kozlov told The Washington Post. "I was happy that the team was winning. But at the same time, I want to be on the ice and be part of that winning. But an injury is an injury. You have to heal it."

Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth will his second career start in goal tonight against Atlanta, giving starter Jose Theodore a break. Staffan Kronwall will be one of the scratches, and if Kozlov plays, another player, most likely a forward, will be scratched as well.

: PP-3rd (23.8%, 60/252); PK-21st (80.0%, 60/300)
ATL: PP-11th (19.8%, 49/247); PK-29th (74.9%, 65/259)

WAS: RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-Probable); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)
ATL: C Jim Slater (Shoulder-IR)