Last year the Capitals finished dead last in the south east division and although the core of their team remains the same the Capitals are a much better team. Currently tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 39 points the Capitals have picked up points in nine of their last thirteen games. However last night the Capitals stumbled out of the blocks of a stretch which will see them play four times in five nights and five games in seven. The Capitals allowed 6 first period goals to the Sabres in less than 10 minutes of the first period.
The Habs will look to create a new winning streak tonight as the Bruins halted their previous one at 5 games two days before Christmas. The Canadiens have yet to play the Capitals this season and after tonight will have played every team in the East except the Rangers. Last season the Capitals destroyed the Canadiens in their first two meetings of the season by a combined mark of 9-3. Despite losing those game the Canadiens out shot the Capitals 87-51 in those two games. Olaf Kolzig was in goal for the Capitals for both of those meetings.
Alexander Ovechkin has said many times that he believes Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov to be the best in the league and you would believe the two were team-mates by the way they were laughing together on the Canadiens bench prior to the Canadiens game day skate at the Verizon Centre today in Washington D.C. Ovechkin watched most of the Canadiens skate joking with Alexander Perezhogin and Alex Kovalev when they were resting along the boards. Aside from injured forward Matt Bradley none of the Capitals were on the ice this morning.
Game Notes: Cristobal Huet and Olaf Kolzig are the expected starters for their respective teams but Kolzig is not the sure fire started as both goalies played last night leaving Capitals coach Glen Hanlon with a tough decision tonight. Mathieu Dandenault appeared to be healed and is expected to play tonight while Steve Begin will remain out with a rib injury. The Capitals have plenty of news on the injury front. RW Matt Bradley (hand surgery), RW Richard Zednik (sports hernia surgery), D John Erskine (fractured foot), and D Bryan Muir (fractured foot) are all out indefinitely. D Shaone Morrisonn (flu) is day-to-day.
1. The Habs a 19-1-2 when they score 3 or more goals in a game.
2. At 23.5% the Habs still have the most deadly PP in the league and recently it has been red hot in the month of December, the Habs are16-of-48 (33.3%).
3. Ovechkin has 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games against the Canadiens in his young career.
4. Five of six players chosen consecutively in the middle of the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft are currently on the rosters of the Caps and Canadiens. Four of those players (Steve Eminger, Alexander Semin, Jakub Klepis and Boyd Gordon) are members of the Caps while the other (Chris Higgins) skates for the Habs.