Washington Capitals (4-2-0-8, 2nd SE) v. Boston Bruins (3-1-0-6 3rd NE)
7:00 pm, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
The Washington Capitals travel to Boston to complete their early season home-and-home against the Bruins in their home opener. Over the past three weeks, Boston has traveled from Northern Ireland to the Czech Republic to Newark, NJ to the nation's capital, all for the sake of four regular season and two pre-season hockey games.
Tonight, they finally get to play before their home crowd.
"It's going to be good to be home," coach Claude Julien said. "We've had our fair share of road games."
It's remarkable that the Bruins have gotten off to such a strong start, including stopping the Caps four-game win streak Tuesday night at Verizon Center. A stifling defense and strong goalie play by Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask have led the way for the B's. Reports from morning practice have Rask starting in net tonight.
Boston is spreading the offense around, with Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci each having at least one point in each game this season for Boston. Horton and Krejci are tied for the early club lead with six points apiece. Krejci, Lucic and D Matt Hunwick scored for Boston Tuesday night, and the B's first line gave the Caps fits in the first period, when Boston built a 2-0 lead.
Washington brings a lethal, but slumping, offense and a new-found stinginess on the penalty kill into tonight's game. They haven't allowed a goal in 25 short-handed opportunities this season, and will try to join the 2008-09 Minnesota Wild as the only teams not to give up a power-play goal in their first seven games since the league expanded in 1967.
As successful as the PK has been, that's how much the offense, and in particular the power play, has struggled.
The Caps PP is ranked 16th in the league thus far, a far cry from successes of past season, with just four PP goals in 26 attempts (15.4 percent). The Caps average exactly three goals per game this season, which places them eighth in the league, but with all the weapons on this team, the results are expected to be higher.
Part of the problem is the Caps continue to miss one of their top playmakers, defenseman Mike Green, who will miss his third straight game with an upper body injury, believed to be a strained shoulder. Also out are grinders Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon, whose presence would come in handy against a physical team like Boston.
Semyon Varlamov got his first game action Tuesday night after Michal Neuvirth pulled himself from the game with dizziness and a headache. The young Czech goalie, who has played brilliantly thus far, trying to gut his way through the game, but after two first period goals he didn't want to let the team down because he was not feeling well.
Neuvirth practiced the last two days, and will back up Varlamov tonight. Varly played well in his season debut, making 13 saves on 14 shots. The lone goal came on a floater from the blue line that disappeared in a maze of bodies in front of the net.
BOS: Nathan Horton (3-3-6, +3), David Krejci (1-5-6, +3), Tim Thomas (3-0-0, 0.67, .979)
WAS: Alex Ovechkin (4-4-8, even), John Carlson (1-5-6, even), Michal Neuvirth (4-2-0, 2.45, .921)
BOS: C Marc Savard (concussion-OUT), F Marco Sturm (knee-OUT), F Trent Whitfield (achilles-OUT)
WAS: D Mike Green (shoulder-OUT), F Matt Bradley (LBI-OUT), F Boyd Gordon (undisclosed-OUT)
BOS: 3.00 GF/G (T-8th), 1.75 GA/G (2nd), PP 1-for-15, 6.7% (T-27th), PK 1-for-11, 90.9% (5th)
WAS: 3.00 GF/G (T-8th), 2.33 GA/G (10th), PP 4-for-26, 15.4% (16th), PK 0-for-25, 100.0% (T-1st)