Caps Weekend Preview

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, December 06, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (14-9-3-31, first in Southeast) have a pair of games this weekend against Eastern Conference foes. Tonight at 7:00 p.m. from Air Canada Centre in Toronto the Caps face a Maple Leafs (9-11-6-24, fourth in Northeast) team still searching for its identity. Sunday, the Caps travel to Dixie to face Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes (12-12-2-26, second in Southeast) from RBC Center at 5:00 p.m..

Washington's story over the last couple of weeks is well documented and nothing will change that status over the weekend. The team is still missing seven of its regulars due to injury, and while several are making progress toward returning to the ice, none are really ready.

The Caps got more injury news yesterday, as D Tyler Sloan was limping noticeably after taking a shot off his ankle in Thursday's win against New York. The team recalled D Sean Collins from Hershey and he is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. Collins, 25, went 0-4-4 with 10 PIM in 13 games with Hershey this season.

Collins will be the eleventh defenseman used by Washington this season.

Coach Bruce Boudreau will not use injuries as an excuse, and after calling his players out after a lopsided and boring loss against Florida Tuesday, the team responded with a complete game 5-2 victory over the Islanders. This two-game road trip should test their new-found resolve.

Toronto has been a team in turmoil this season so far. They've already turned their front office upside down and recently brought in long-time GM Brian Burke to attempt to lead them back to prominence. Along with the turnover comes the swirling Mats Sundin rumors.

The 37-year old all-star is without a contract and deciding if he wishes to return to the NHL, leaving the faithful Maple Leaf followers confused and frustrated that their team and 13-year centerman can't work something out.

On the ice has been as much as a struggle as the front office. The team is getting outscored nightly and has been attacked in the Toronto press. Goalies Vesa Toskala (-8-8. 3.24, .883) and Curtis Joseph (0-3-2, 3.95, .851) have been inconsistent and left mostly to fend for themselves.

Up front, the Leafs are paced by Mikhail Grabovski (10-8-18, -2), Matt Stajan (7-14-21, -5) and Nik Antropov (9-10-19, -2).

Players currently missing from coach Ron Wilson's lineup include D Mike Van Ryn (Head-IR); D Jonas Frogren (Arm-IR) and C Jamal Mayers (Hand-Out).

Carolina uses a team attack, as none of their skaters has more than nine goals, but six have at least seven goals to his credit. Tuomo Ruutu leads the way with nine (9-6-15, -1), while Eric Staal (8-7-15, +8) is their only leading scorer with a positive plus/minus rating.

Their number one goalie is Cam Ward. He is 8-7-3, 2.68, .911 in 18 games, however, is out with a groin injury. The backup is Michael Leighton (4-6-0, 3.22, .887).

Carolina's injury sheet lists several key players: D David Tanabe (Concussion-Out); D Tim Gleason (Lower-body-IR); D Frantisek Kaberle (Lower body-Questionable); D Dennis Seidenberg (Leg-IR); RW Scott Walker (Lower body-Questionable); G Cam Ward (Groin-Out)