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At the Rink blog

Winning now imperative for Capitals, Canadiens

Friday, 02.24.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Winning now imperative for Capitals, Canadiens
WASHINGTON -- Two teams in desperate need of a win meet tonight at Verizon Center as the Washington Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens.

The Capitals have lost three straight and six of seven overall; the Canadiens have lost two straight and four of five overall.

Washington has dropped four points behind the Southeast Division leading Winnipeg Jets, while Montreal enters play tonight in the Eastern Conference basement.

"We just have to win," said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, who is expected to play tonight after missing Wednesday's game in Ottawa with a lower-body injury.

"We have to play better offensively, defensively, and our goaltending has to be better. We can't point to one guy. All guys on the ice and on the bench have to be ready 100 percent, especially in this situation. We can't give up."

The Capitals have hurt themselves of late thanks in part to slow starts. Washington has allowed the first goal in six straight games, fallen behind 2-0 in three straight games, and trailed 4-0 in the past two games.

"It's imperative that we get a win tonight," said Capitals forward Troy Brouwer. "We're just keying in on our start now. That's what's been killing us. On that last [four-game] road trip we got outscored 7-0 in the first period, so that has to change if we want to have success coming down the stretch here."

Not only have the Capitals fallen behind early, but in most cases they have struggled to come back. In the last six games -- covering 360 minutes of hockey -- the Caps have led for just 6 minutes and 33 seconds.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars and have not scored against the Capitals in more than 216 minutes.

Washington has blanked the Canadiens in three straight games dating to last season (oddly enough with three different starting goalies), and in four of their last six meetings overall.

Michal Neuvirth (6-9-3) will start for the Caps while Carey Price (22-22-9) goes for Montreal. Neuvirth made 31 saves in a 3-0 win in Montreal on Jan. 18. He will be making his first start at Verizon Center since Dec. 20.

Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Marcus Johansson - Mike Knuble
Jay Beagle - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Jeff Schultz - Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Ryan White - Scott Gomez - Rene Bourque
Petteri Nokelainen - Louis Leblanc - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Raphael Diaz - Alexei Emelin
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Notes: Mathieu Darche remains sidelined with flu. … One of Nokelainen, Leblanc or Palushaj will likely sit as Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth is expected to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
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