Division leaders meet as Caps challenge Avalanche
Tuesday, 12.15.2009 / 7:30 PM
Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing EditorCAPITALS (20-7-6) at AVALANCHE (19-10-6)
Washington 7-2-1; Colorado 5-3-2
This is the lone meeting between the teams this season. The Avs earned a 4-1 victory against the Caps on Feb. 20 at the Verizon Center behind a three-point night from Ryan Smyth.
Colorado continues to surprise the hockey world, as it moved back into first place in the Northwest Division on Sunday night with an impressive 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center.
Washington, one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, had an off night on Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. The Caps held a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes before allowing six tallies over the final two periods.
"I think what usually happens is you get a 2-0 lead real early, it looks easy and you let up," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You don't do what you're supposed to be doing. We have a couple more chances that we are way too casual on, and all of a sudden they get one and then they get two, and they're sitting over there going, 'Hey boys, let's go.' It's not like a tap. You can't turn it on and off, and we couldn't. Obviously, I thought the last half of the game we played pretty badly."
One player who isn't surprised to see Colorado atop the Northwest Division is Avs forward Wojtek Wolski, who had a goal and an assist in Sunday's win against the Flames. He leads the Avalanche with 13 goals and has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in his last eight games.
"Everyone picked us to finish last. That just motivated us," Wolski said. "We kind of almost snuck up on a lot of teams. … We're definitely a hard team to play against now."
Who's Hot: Alex Ovechkin
had a goal and two assists for the Caps on Saturday and is tied with Nicklas Backstrom
for the team lead with 37 points. … Avs goalie Craig Anderson stopped 19 shots against Calgary for his 16th win of the season, setting a personal career high. He also has three shutouts, a 2.57 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov
is on injured reserve with a groin injury, while forward Quintin Laing (broken jaw) is out 4-6 weeks. Defenseman Brian Pothier (rib) is day-to-day and right wing Boyd Gordon (back) is expected to return later this month. … Avs defensemen Kyle Cumiskey
(foot) and Ruslan Salei (back) are on IR, while forwards Milan Hejduk
(knee) and Marek Svatos (groin) are day-to-day. Forward David Jones
is likely done for the season due to a torn ACL.
The Avs' line of Wolski, center Paul Stastny
and right wing Chris Stewart combined for two goals and three assists against the Flames and has totaled 11 goals and 20 assists in the past eight games, during which the Avalanche have gone 5-2-1.
"Travel concerns don't come into play when we're up 2-0 five minutes into the game. I don't think anyone was complaining then. That's not the reason we lost the game. We're in control of the game, we're doing things right, executing the game plan the coaches set out, and all of a sudden at the 10-minute mark of the first period we got away from it. We didn't play defensive hockey and we ended up giving up six goals." -- Caps forward Brooks Laich
after Saturday's loss.