The Washington Capitals (40-20-5-85, first in Southeast, third in East) host the Toronto Maple Leafs (25-26-13-63, fourth in Northeast, 11th in East) at 7:00 p.m. from Verizon Center.

Washington has lost their last two games--both at home--and are 3-4 since Feb. 20. The last two losses, to Carolina and Florida, are particularly troubling. Both Carolina and Florida find themselves in the position the Caps were last season, fighting for a playoff spot with the season winding down, thus every game, every point, matters.

The Capitals are fairly secure with their playoff spot this season, leading the Southeast Division by 11 points with 16 games to go. They trail New Jersey by two points for second in the conference, and are seven points up on Philadelphia in fourth.

Caps star left winger Alex Ovechkin, leading the NHL in goals with 46, had a little scare at practice yesterday. The reigning Hart Trophy winner took a slap shot off the boot and left the ice under duress, breaking several sticks along the way out of frustration. But after the initial shock wore off, and some treatment from teh Caps medical staff, Ovechkin is not expected to miss tonight's game.

"He's fine," coach Bruce Boudreau said after practice. "I'm not concerned. ... It's sore, but he's OK."

The Caps need their leader to be fine tonight, considering the way the team has played recently. "We're going through this funk right now," Boudreau said of his team's last two losses. "It looked like there was a complete lack of energy."

Some energy might have been found at the NHL trade deadline yesterday, but General Manager George McPhee decided to stand pat with the roster he has. While some names were moved yesterday, including several that the Cpas had interest in, McPhee did not pull the trigger on any deals, preferring to stay with the young players and minor leaguers that the team has accumulated in the last few years.

Help from within might be coming, however, as defenseman Brian Pothier was granted medical clearance to begin a conditioning stint with AHL Hershey. Under the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, the player has 14 days of rehab in the minors before the team has to either activate him or outright him to the minors, subjecting him to the waiver process.

Coach Boudreau said after this morning's skate, through Capitals Insider, that Ovechkin, Tom Poti (groin) and Jose Theodore (flu) will all play tonight. Michael Nylander, out for four games as a healthy scratch, could play as well.

Toronto enters this game with a new goaltender. Leafs GM Brain Burke acquired martin Gerber off re-entry waivers from Ottawa yesterday, after learning that Vesa Toskala will miss the remainder of the season with hip and groin surgery.

The Leafs also sent Nik Antropov to the New York Rangers and forward Dominic Moore to Buffalo, both for draft picks, further depleting their squad. They acquired Olie Kolzig, Jamie Heward and Andy Rogers from Tampa Bay, but Kolzig and Heward are both on the injury list.

WAS: PP-2nd (24.7%, 67-271); PK-22nd (79.4%, 66/320)
TOR: PP-13th (19.8%, 52/263); PK-29th (74.9%, 61/243)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Alex Ovechkin (Foot-Questionable); D Tom Poti (Groin-Questionable); G Jose Theodore (Flu-Questionable)

TOR: RW Niklas Hagman (Head-Questionable); D Tomas Kaberle (Hand-Questionable); G Vesa Toskala (Hip/groin-IR); D Jamie Heward (Concussion-IR); G Olaf Kolzig (Arm-IR)