Capitals get Ovechkin back to take on Canadiens
Friday, 02.03.2012 / 5:26 PMCAPITALS (26-20-4) at CANADIENS (19-23-9)
TV: CBC, RDS (HD), CSN-MA
Washington 5-3-2; Montreal 3-5-2
Washington won the lone meeting this season, 3-0, in Montreal on Jan. 18. The Capitals have back-to-back shutouts against the Canadiens dating back to last season, and are 4-0-2 in the past six regular-season meetings.
Big Story: Alex Ovechkin
returns from a three-game suspension as the Capitals take on the Canadiens in a Hockey Night in Canada matchup.
Washington went 0-for-2 on a trip to Florida, and the Capitals have lost five of seven since reeling off three straight wins and seven of nine to close the gap on the Panthers in the Southeast. Instead of wresting control of the division from Florida, the Capitals have stalled out again.
The team's issues away from Verizon Center continue to be their undoing. Washington is 18-6-1 at home, but its 8-14-3 mark on the road has threatened to sabotage the season. Having Ovechkin back will help Saturday, but the Capitals need to start winning in the white jerseys if they want to continue their run of four straight division titles.
Thursday night was an all-too familiar situation for Montreal this season. The Canadiens led the New Jersey Devils going into the third period, but ended up with a 5-3 defeat. It was the sixth time in 21 games this season where the Canadiens went into the third period with a lead and did not end up with two points.
"It's very frustrating because there's been so much talk," Lars Eller
said. "Too much talk on what's not being done right, and this or that, blah, blah, blah. The focus has been on the wrong things. There should be less talk and more acting out there. That's the short story."
Who's Hot: Mathieu Perreault
scored in Washington's 3-0 win at Montreal, and he now has 5 goals and 7 points in the past six games. … Montreal's Erik Cole
has 9 points in his past seven games.
Washington will be without top center Nicklas Backstrom
(concussion) and top defenseman Mike Green
(sports hernia surgery). Defenseman Tom Poti
(groin) has been out all season and is not expected to return. … Montreal's top defenseman, Andrei Markov
(knee), has not played this season, but he has resumed skating. The Canadiens are also without captain Brian Gionta
(torn biceps), and forwards Travis Moen
(upper body), Petteri Nokelainen
(upper body) and Michael Blunden
Second-year Capitals defenseman John Carlson
has been on the ice for 2.93 goals per 60 minutes played at even strength this season, which is the highest on the team and a full goal more than his rookie campaign. … It has been 364 days since the Canadiens' Scott Gomez
last scored a goal -- he tallied on Feb. 5, 2011 against the New York Rangers.
Ovechkin is back after the longest suspension of his career (three games) and his much-publicized decision to skip the All-Star game because of the suspension. He was suspended twice during the 2009-10 season, but both were for two games.
Obviously, the Capitals need Ovechkin to be more like the two-time MVP and less like the more pedestrian version from last season and the beginning of this campaign. He did have his first 3-point game of the season against Pittsburgh in the contest where his suspendable offense occurred, and Ovechkin does have 8 goals in his past 12 games.
The break did offer Ovechkin a rare chance to rest and recharge for the stretch run.
"It's happened not too often to me," he told Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com. "I'm not used to watching the games from upstairs and staying (on the ice) after the morning skates. I'm pretty excited. I miss hockey a lot. It's a situation where you miss the game and you're tired of watching."