GAME 69 PREVIEW: Caps Roll Into Philly with a Beef

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, March 12, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Sorry for the punny headline.

The Washington Capitals (41-21-6-88, first in Southeast, third in East) continue their short road trip in Philadelphia, facing a Flyers team (36-19-10-82, second in Atlantic, fourth in East) that looks to narrow the gap between the two teams.

The Flyers have taken two of three so far this season from the Caps, so this is a statement game for both teams. The Caps fell in their worst loss this season, 7-1 on Dec. 20 in Philly, and split a pair at Verizon Center, a 2-1 shootout win Jan. 6 and a third period meltdown in a 4-2 loss Feb. 24.

Philadelphia is 10-4-1 in the past five weeks, but four of those defeats have come at the Wachovia Center, site of tonight's tilt.

Washington has won four consecutive road games, matching their best such streak from last season. Should they win tonight, it will be their longest road winning streak in eight years.

Coach Bruce Boudreau is more concerned about the two points in this year's standings though. He called off yesterday's optional practice to allow his troops to recover from Tuesday's draining 2-1 overtime win at Nashville.

Center Sergei Fedorov called the Predators game a "good character win", and teammates Donald Brashear, Matt Bradley and John Erskine have the scars to show for it.

Brashear suffered a sprained knee in his fight with Wade Belak and is questionable for tonight's matchup. Coach Boudreau mentioned that if Washington's tough guy can not go tonight, they would call someone up from AHL Hershey rather than reinsert Michael Nylander, who is nursing an upper body injury.

Bradley took several stitches to close a gash on his nose, suffered from a head-butt in his tussle with Jordan Tootoo, but will play in tonight's game.

The game features two of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL, Alex Ovechkin and Philly's Jeff Carter. Ovechkin's 47 goals leads all goal scorers by a wide margin, while Carter is third overall with 38 goals, trailing New Jersey's Zack Parise by one for second place. Alexander Semin ranks 15th in the league with 28, despite missing 19 games due to injury.

Philadelphia has a stable of 20-goal scorers, with six in all. Mike Richards and Simon Gange have 26 each, while Scott Hartnell (24-26-50), Mike Knuble (23-18-41) and Joffrey Lupul (20-22-42) all contribute heavily to the Flyers well-balanced attack.

The Capitals expect to start Jose Theodore (25-14-7, 2.83, .900) in net, while the Flyers will counter with Martin Biron (21-13-8, 2.77, .913).

WAS: PP-3rd (24.1%, 68/282); PK-22nd (79.7%, 67/330)
PHI: PP-6th (21.8%, 56/257); PK-8th (82.9%, 55/322)

WAS: D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); C Michael Nylander (Upper body-Questionable)

PHI: D Derian Hatcher (Knee-IR); C Daniel Briere (Groin-Questionable); LW Riley Cote (Upper body-Questionable)