Phillips Arena, 7:30 pm, Atlanta, GA
The Washington Capitals travel deep into Dixie to face the Atlanta Thrashers for their fourth meeting (out of six) already this season.
Since falling to the Thrashers on Opening Night 4-2, the Caps have taken two straight, both at Verizon Center, by 4-3 and 6-4 scores, the latest coming last Sunday as John Erskine banged home the game winner from just inside the blue line at 13:11 of the third.
Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and David Steckel had a goal and an assist each for the Capitals in that win. Alexander Semin and Matt Hendricks also scored for Washington, which couldn't protect a three-goal lead in the middle period, which has become all too customary in the recent weeks.
Wednesday night versus Buffalo, the Capitals got out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second, but then surrendered two goals in less than a minute to set up a tense third period, but the Caps played lock-down defense in the final frame to hold onto the 3-2 win.
The line of Matt Bradley, Jason Chimera and David Steckel combined for five points Wednesday vs. Buffalo. They had entered the game with 14 points combined. Bradley and Chimera each posted their first multiple-point games of the season while Steckel scored for a second straight game, the first time he has scored in consecutive regular-season games.
Washington is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games overall, but just 4-3-1 away from Verizon Center this season.
Alexander Semin has points in nine straight games, the longest point streak by a Capital this season and just one game shy of the longest of his career (10 games from 1/15/10 to 2/2/10, 6g-11a). Semin leads the NHL in goals (12) and points (18) at home.
He is one of a trio of Caps -- with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- to reside in the league's top 20 scorers, the only team in the league to boast that. Semin and Ovechkin both have 25 points, while Backstrom has 21.
As of this post, coach Bruce Boudreau had not set his goalie for the match, though he promised earlier this week that Braden Holtby would start one of the two back-to-back games this weekend. It would make sense Holtby would get the road game and have Michal Neuvirth handle the Saturday night start against Philadelphia.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is struggling. They've gone 3-5-2 over their last ten, including consecutive losses to Pittsburgh, the Caps, and Wednesday to Florida, dropping a 2-1 decision. The Thrashers are 1-5-1 in their last seven games and have been outscored 26-18 in those contests.
Andrew Ladd, the team leader with 18 points, was named the Thrashers new captain Thursday. He has three goals and one assist against the Capitals this season.
Ondrej Pavelec, the Thrashers goalie who collapsed to the ice unconscious and was rushed to the hospital for observation in the season opener against Washington, has returned to play and will start tonight's affair. He is 1-4-2 with a 2.33 GAA and .928 SV% in nine games this season.
WAS: LW Alexander Semin (14-11-25, +10), LW Alex Ovechkin (10-15-25, +7), G Michal Neuvirth (12-3-0, 2.56, .912)
ATL: LW Andrew Ladd (7-11-18, -1), D Dustin Byfuglien (5-11-16, -2), G Chris Mason (6-5-1, 3.90, .897)
WAS: F Boyd Gordon (LBI-DTD); D Tom Poti (LBI-OUT)
ATL: D Dustin Byfuglien (LBI-DTD); F Fredrik Modin (UBI-DTD); F Eric Boulton (Hand-DTD)
WAS: GF/G: 3.63 (1st) GA/G: 2.58 (9th) PP: 22.7% (6th) PK: 83.8% (11th) FO: 50.7% (T-12th)
ATL: GF/G: 3.00 (10th) GA/G: 3.53 (29th) PP: 24.0% (5th) PK: 76.1% (27th) FO: 49.2% (20th)