CAPS GAME NIGHT, GAME 27: Two Streaks Enter, One Will End

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 02, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

Washington Capitals (18-6-2-38, 1st in SE) v. Dallas Stars (14-8-1-29, 1st PAC)
8:30 pm EST, American Airlines Center, Dallas TX


The Washington Capitals bring a four-game winning streak into Dallas to face the Pacific Divsion leading Stars tonight.

The Stars have won four in a row in their own right, including a 4-1 win at Carolina Monday night.  In their streak, they've surrendered just five goals in four games.  Kari Lehtonen helmed the last three wins, but news from this morning's skate had backup Andrew Raycroft off the ice first for coach Marc Crawford.

Lehtonen is 12-7-1 with a 2.61 GAA and .914 save percentage.  In limited action this season (four games), Raycroft is 2-1-0, 1.85, .943.

Dallas is led up front by Brad Richards, often associated with the Capitals when talks of trades are bandied about.  Richards (11-17-28, +11) is a gifted offensive player and responsible on his own end, and as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, could prove to be a much-discussed trade option for clubs during the stretch drive.

But if Dallas remains at the top of the Pacific Division and striking distance in the Western Conference, Richards' services could prove quite costly, if he becomes available at all.

Thursday night marks the debut of Scott Hannan, acquired Tuesday from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Tomas Flesichmann.  Hannan is a durable, rugged, stay-at-home defenseman, something General Manager George McPhee professed to be trying to acquire for "two to three years." 

Hannan should be paired tonight with John Erskine, who is playing some of his best hockey of his career in the recent weeks.  Coach Bruce Boudreau stated that he thinks Tom Poti will be the best pairing for Hannan in the future, but Poti will miss tonight's game with an aggrevation of the groin injury that forced him to miss several games in November.

"You'd like to see [Poti] play the next 60 games or 50 games, but our whole goal is to make sure he's healthy and it doesn't happen again," Boudreau said. "He's worked really hard off the ice since he first pulled the groin and hopefully it's more maintenance today than anything else."

Captain Alex Ovechkin comes into this contest in an eight-game goal scoring drought, but has eight assists in that period.  Ovechkin has really showcased his playmaking abilities recently, and passed up a sure empty net goal in last night's 4-1 win over St. Louis in order to pad teammate Nicklas Backstrom's totals.

Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight for the Caps.  Neuvy has been tremendous for the Capitals this season, but over the last week Boudreau has been resting the young Czech netminder and riding the hot hand of Semyon Varlamov, who won four games in a row. 

"People forget now that Varlamov's played four good games in a row [that Neuvirth] was unreal for us and he won games for us at the beginning, and he's got 12 wins under his belt," Boudreau said. "He's not losing his spot just because somebody's playing good. He's getting back in there and getting a chance to compete for that No. 1 spot."

Through four meetings against the Western Conference thus far the Caps are 3-1-0 and have allowed just 1.75 goals per game.

Washington has killed 12 consecutive shorthanded situations to improve its penalty kill to 85.3%, eighth-best in the league. Washington is 10-3-0 when it holds the opposition without a power-play goal and 6-0-0 when it also scores a PPG of its own.


DAL:  C Brad Richards 911-17-28, +11), LW Loui Eriksson (10-15-25, +14), LW James Neal (10-11-21, +12), G Kari Lehtonen (12-7-1, 2.61, .914)
WAS:  LW Alex Ovechkin (10-23-33, +10), LW Alexander Semin (18-13-31, +8), C Nicklas Backstrom (11-19-30, +11), G Semyon Varlamov (4-1-0, 1.72, .939)


DAL:  GF/G: 2.87 (13th); GA/G: 2.65 (11th); PP: 15.0% (22nd); PK: 78.2% (27th) FO: 48.8% (23rd)
WAS:   GF/G: 3.38 (3rd); GA/G: 2.62 (9th); PP: 24.4% (2nd); PK: 85.3% (8th) FO: 51.6% (11th)


DAL:  D Mark Fistric (Groin-IR), RW Krys Barch (LBI-DTD)
WAS:  D Tom Poti (Groin-DTD), Tyler Sloan (UNK-IR)

Information and quotes for this preview were culled from published reports and Capitals press releases