Montreal Canadiens (20-14-2) at Washington Capitals (21-12-5) – December
The Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals will face each other for the
first time tonight since the Habs eliminated the top-seeded Capitals in last
year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Montreal is presently in the
middle of a 7-game road trip, losing to the Colorado Avalanche, the Dallas Stars
and the New York Islanders, and recording a solitary victory against the
Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals recently endured an 8-game losing skid,
but seem to have righted the ship of late, winning 3 of their last 4, and
gaining points in every game. With the Boston Bruins claiming the
divisional lead with their win last night, Montreal fell from 3rd to 8th in the
Eastern Conference, and desperately need to start putting up wins. The
Canadiens are 4-6-0 over their last 10 games, and have lost 6 of their last 8.
The Capitals are 3-4-3 over the same duration.
Carey Price (19-12-2, 2.27 GAA, .923 SV%) will get the start in goal tonight,
and will be looking to put forth a more consistent effort than fans have seen of
late. After a stellar start, Price’s numbers have been mediocre lately; he
has recorded a 3.60 goals-against average and a .869 save percentage over his
last 7 games. In 6 career games against the Capitals, Price has gone 2-1-3
with a 3.53 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. Across the
ice, Semyon Varlamov (5-4-1, 2.49 GAA, .912 SV%) will start for the Capitals
after battling injuries most of the season. Varlamov has yet to lose to
Montreal in the regular season, going 2-0-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average
and .930 save percentage.
It is the usual culprits leading the Canadiens in scoring, with Tomas
Plekanec (11-19-30), Mike Cammalleri (12-15-17), Andrei Kostitsyn (10-13-23) and
Brian Gionta (12-9-21) topping the list. Scott Gomez (5-12-17) has been on
fire since returning from injury, and has recorded 8 points in those 6 games.
The Capitals are led by the high-scoring trio of Alexander Ovechkin (13-28-41),
Alexander Semin (18-17-35) and Nicklas Backstrom (11-24-35). Although
Ovechkin is on pace for his worst season statistically, he is always dangerous
against the Habs, recording 24 points in 20 career games.
Montreal and Washington fare almost identically on the powerplay, but the
Capitals (19.6%) bear a slight edge over the Canadiens (19%) with the
man-advantage. Montreal, on the other hand, holds the advantage when it
comes to playing shorthanded, as their 86.8% kill-rate bests that of Washington
With Andrei Markov out for the season, Travis Moen is the only question mark
for the Canadiens, having missed the last game and practice with flu-like
symptoms. That being said, Moen did participate in today’s morning skate,
as did Josh Gorges, who took a therapy day yesterday. The Capitals will be
without Jeff Schultz (thumb), D.J. King (undisclosed), Boyd Gordon (lower body)
and Matt Bradley (finger) while Tom Poti (head), Eric Fehr (personal) and
Mathieu Perreault (nose) are questionable for tonight’s tilt.
Game-time is 1900 EST and the game can been seen on RDS and TSN (ALT).
Preview written by Matt Dilworth