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Washington (40-20-10) at Montreal (38-24-7)

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011.

Two of the hottest clubs in the East collide tonight, as the Montreal
Canadiens play host to the Washington Capitals.  The Capitals have won
their past 8 games to solidify their rank as the Southeast division leader while
Montreal has won 7 of its last 9 games.  The Capitals and Canadiens have
split their first two meetings of the year, with Montreal winning the last game
in dramatic fashion, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in a shootout.

Carey Price (33-22-6, 2.29 GAA, .924 SV%) gets the start in net for the Canadiens tonight, and will be
looking to build upon his Vezina-caliber season.  At the time of this
writing, Price is 1st in games played (61), 2nd in wins (33), 2nd in shutouts (8), while
his goals-against average and save percentage are 11th and 6th respectively (for
goalies that have played 20 or more games). 
At the other end of the ice is someone relatively new to the NHL, Braden Holtby. Holtby (8-2-2,
1.95 GAA, .931 SV%) earned 1st Star honours in the NHL last week, and is a strong factor
in Washington’s recent surge in the standings.

The offensively deficient Canadiens are led by Tomas Plekanec (21-32-53),
James Wisniewski (8-35-43) and Mike Cammalleri (16-22-38) while Brian Gionta
(24-13-37) leads the Habs in goals.  Despite having a so-called "off-year",
Alex Ovechkin (28-45-73) leads the Capitals in all categories, and is followed by Nicklas
Backstrom (17-38-55) and Alexander Semin (25-22-47).  Surprisingly,
Washington scores only slightly more goals-per-game than the Habs (2.66 vs.
2.64), and perhaps even more mind-blowing is the fact that Washington’s defence
(2.37 GAA) is tighter than that of Montreal (2.45 GAA).  In fact,
Washington’s D is good for 4th in the
league behind Nashville, Vancouver and Boston.

The Capitals fall in the bottom third in powerplay efficiency for the first
year in recent memory, as they place 22nd in the league with 16.4%  The
Canadiens maintain a decent pace on the year with a conversion percentage of
19.9%, which is good for 7th in the NHL.  Nevertheless, the Capitals have
shown their tenacity with the man disadvantage thus far, and their 85.6%
penalty-kill rate is good for 3rd in the NHL, trailing only Pittsburgh and
Vancouver.  Again, Montreal sits 7th in this department, with a 84.4%
success rate on the penalty kill.  In the season series this far, only
Washington has tallied a powerplay goal; the Capitals have gone 1 for 11, while
Montreal is 0 for 11 with the man advantage.

Washington is expected to be without the services of Tom Poti (groin), Mike
Green (concussion) and Semyon Varlamov (knee), while Nicklas Backstrom (thumb)
is questionable for tonight.  Montreal’s wounded include Andrei Markov
(knee), Josh Gorges (knee), Jaroslav Spacek (knee), Max Pacioretty
(neck/concussion), Mathieu Darche (groin) and Brent Sopel (hand).  Mike
Cammalleri (flu) missed practice yesterday but is probable for tonight’s tilt.

Game-time is 1900 EST, and the game can be seen on TSN and RDS.

Preview written by Matt Dilworth