Capitals seek to end three-game skid by beating Habs
CANADIENS (21-20-3) at CAPITALS (24-11-6)
Montreal 6-4-0; Washington 5-5-0
Third of four meetings this season. Each team has picked up a win on its opponent's home ice. Carey Price
stopped 32 shots to lead the Canadiens to a 3-2 victory in Washington on Nov. 20. The Capitals got revenge eight days later, as Eric Fehr scored twice in regulation, including the game-tying goal with 11.4 seconds remaining, and Nicklas Backstrom had the lone shootout tally for a 4-3 win in Montreal.
Washington begins the second half of its schedule with a clear path to another Southeast Division title, but that doesn't mean everything is perfect surrounding the Capitals right now. They will take the ice Tuesday attempting to avoid their first four-game losing streak since the one that got Glen Hanlon fired as coach in November 2007. It ended in Bruce Boudreau's first game behind the bench.
This is the start of a big week for Montreal, with a four-game homestand beginning Thursday against Florida. First, however, the Canadiens must contend with a Capitals squad that will be hungry for a victory. The Habs are hungry for a goal after being shut out by Ryan Miller on Sunday in a 1-0 loss to the Sabres. Miller stopped all 30 shots he faced, handing Montreal just its second loss in eight games.
"I thought we played a fairly solid game," forward Brian Gionta
said. "We had some good chances, but Miller is a good goaltender. You've got to get some traffic in front of him, and he saw too much."
Coming off the Christmas break, Washington played a sound game against New Jersey, but that 4-1 win on Dec. 26 remains the last time the Capitals have gained points in a game. They were beaten at home by woeful Carolina, then got swept on a brief California trip through San Jose and Los Angeles. A shorthanded goal by Michal Handzus in the third period Saturday was enough for the Kings to deal them a 2-1 loss.
"I thought the last two periods were pretty good," Boudreau said. "I think we limited them to about seven shots in the last two periods. It's still no consolation when you lose but it's a better effort than we've been getting the last couple of games."
Price, who has been sharing time in net for the Canadiens with Jaroslav Halak, has split his last two decisions but given up just one goal in each game, stopping 63 of 65 shots for a .969 save percentage. … Capitals defenseman Mike Green had a power-play goal against the Kings and has lit the lamp in four of his last five games.
Montreal forwards and brothers Andrei Kostitsyn
and Sergei Kostitsyn are expected to miss Tuesday's game with lower-body injuries. Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne
is also unlikely to play due to personal reasons. … Migraines caused Backstrom to leave Saturday's game early, but he is not expected to miss the game. Goalie Semyon Varlamov (groin) and defenseman Brian Pothier (ribs) are on injured reserve.
Alex Ovechkin was held without a point by the Kings, only the seventh time this season that has happened. Ovi had a goal and an assist the last time he faced the Canadiens, giving him 11 goals and 11 assists in 18 career games against them.
There's nobody really breathing down their necks in the division just yet, so the Capitals will have to motivate themselves to snap out of this mini-slump before they make the division race a little more exciting than it has to be.
Habs this week – Jan. 4, 2010
The Numbers Game - Jan. 3, 2010
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2010 World Junior Hockey Championship