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At the Rink blog

Oilers, Capitals each seek three-game win streak

Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 3:51 PM

By Derek Van Diest - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Oilers, Capitals each seek three-game win streak

EDMONTON -- A three-game winning streak is on the line Thursday when the Edmonton Oilers host the Washington Capitals at Rexall Place.

Each team enters having won its previous pair, with the Oilers salvaging the last two games of a six-game road trip. One of the stops early in the trip was Washington, where the Capitals posted a 4-2 victory.

"At least you have a little bit of a feel of what they're looking to do and it's fresh in our minds," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "The good thing is that we don't have to spend a lot of time on 5-on-5 pre-scout video and we can get right to the details very quickly.

"For me it's always good to play teams right away after. The competitiveness of the game is still there and obviously we'd like to rebound off the game we played in Washington as well."

Alex Ovechkin scored in the victory against the Oilers 10 days ago and has added three more goals since to lead the League with nine.

The Capitals right wing scored twice in a shootout victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, which kicked off a six-game road trip.

"I love the way Ovechkin plays," Eakins said. "He's well-rounded. It's not like he's one of the skilled players out there that are maybe of smaller stature and all you have to worry about is their speed and skill.

"With Ovechkin you have to worry that he can run you over too. I feel bad for the defensemen in the League that have to go out and challenge this guy because he can beat you with strength, he can beat you with speed and he's got a little bit of fire in his game, which for me is always great to see in a player."

Ovechkin is off to a strong start, essentially picking up where he left off last season when he made the switch from left wing to the right side. He's on pace to break his career best of 65 goals, set during the 2007-2008 season.

"It's been up and down for me all the time," Ovechkin said. "A couple of years ago I didn't play well and I had all kinds of pressure, the system was not my favorite system. But whatever the case you just have to try to do your best.

"I feel good, my linemates feel good and that's the most important thing. There are five players playing out there when I'm on the ice and everybody has to do their job."

Four of Ovechkin's goals have come on the power play, which enters Thursday connecting on a League-best rate of 31.4 percent. The Oilers, meanwhile, have failed to score on their past 17 power-play opportunities and have a 13.9-percent efficiency rating for the season.

"Ovechkin is a special player and they're trying to get the puck to him on the power play," Eakins said. "The best thing with their power play … is not to take any penalties. That's the best way to kill their power play.

"They're over 30 percent and they have a whole bunch of guys that are minus, so that tells me they're making a living off their power play. I would definitely not like them to have one [Thursday]."

The lineups for both teams likely will remain the same from their previous victories, with Braden Holtby once again getting the start in goal for the Capitals and Devan Dubnyk making his fourth consecutive start for the Oilers.

Nail Yakupov, who was a healthy scratch the last time the two teams met, has worked his way back into the Oilers' lineup and will be playing on the top line in place of Taylor Hall, who is out at least four weeks with a knee injury.

Yakupov still is looking for his first goal of the season; he had one assist in eight games.

"It's coming, don't worry," Yakupov said. "We've been playing well and what's important is that we're winning games and it doesn't matter who's been scoring points. I just have to keep working hard and if you work hard then the points will come, whether it would be today, tomorrow, next week or next month."

Here are the projected lineups for the Oilers and Capitals:

OILERS

Nail Yakupov - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

David Perron - Mark Arcobello - Ales Hemsky

Ryan Jones - Boyd Gordon - Tyler Pitlick

Ben Eager - Will Acton - Luke Gazdic

Andrew Ference - Nick Schultz

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry

Justin Schultz - Anton Belov

Devan Dubnyk

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Denis Grebeshkov

Injured: Jesse Joensuu (back), Ryan Hamilton (knee), Taylor Hall (knee), Sam Gagner (jaw), Corey Potter (back).

CAPITALS

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti - Eric Fehr - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

John Erskine - Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Alexander Urbom, Jay Beagle

Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff