CAPITALS (9-7-0) at COYOTES (11-4-2)
TV: CSN-DC, FS-A
Last 10: Washington 7-3-0; Phoenix 7-2-1
Season series: This is the first matchup between the Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes in almost two years. They last met on Nov. 21, 2011, with Washington winning 4-3. These teams have split their past four meetings, dating back to 2008-09.
Big story: Washington and Phoenix have been among the NHL's hottest teams and are near the top of their respective division standings. Washington comes into the game having won four straight while Phoenix had a five-game win streak snapped by the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
Capitals: A difficult stretch in which the Capitals closed out October with losses to the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks got even tougher when captain Alex Ovechkin suddenly went down with a shoulder injury. But Washington won both games without Ovechkin, including a 7-0 dismantling of the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 1.
Ovechkin didn't skip a beat when he returned to the lineup. The Russian sniper scored twice in a 6-2 win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday before opening the scoring on the power play against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund scored for Minnesota to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. But Marcus Johansson tied the game with 3:08 left in regulation when his shot from the right circle hit a defender and beat Josh Harding. Nicklas Backstrom then scored the only goal in the shootout to give Washington a 3-2 victory, its fourth straight win.
"We're certainly going to have to play better than we did tonight," forward Brooks Laich said. "We kind of escaped with a win. We expect more out of ourselves. I don't think we're going home really patting ourselves on the back and feeling fantastic."
Coyotes: Arizona has not been a very hospitable place for visiting teams this season. The Coyotes own a League-best 7-0-1 home record and have won six straight at Jobing.com Arena, including a 3-2 shootout victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
The following night, Phoenix visited another of the League's hottest teams in the Ducks. Playing on the road for the second half of a back-to-back against a rested Anaheim squad, the Coyotes opened the scoring when Shane Doan beat Jonas Hiller after Mike Ribeiro's pass sprung him loose on a partial breakaway.
The Coyotes and Ducks traded goals through most of the first two periods. But Corey Perry's goal with two seconds remaining in the second put Anaheim up 3-2 and appeared to take the wind out of Phoenix's sails. Cam Fowler extended Anaheim's lead on the power play and Andrew Cogliano sealed the 5-2 win with an empty-net goal.
"It was a great test for our team to see how we reacted, and we didn't play well enough," coach Dave Tippett said. "We didn't play disciplined enough to win."
Who's hot: Ovechkin has three goals in his past two games, and Backstrom has eight points during his current four-game point streak. … Doan has five goals in his past seven games for the Coyotes, while Martin Hanzal has three goals and five points in his past five games.
Injury report: Defensemen Jack Hillen (tibia surgery) and John Erskine (upper body) are out for Washington. … Phoenix defensemen David Schlemko and Derek missed the game Wednesday with lower-body injuries and are questionable for Saturday. Jeff Halpern (upper body) is out while Radim Vrbata left the game against Anaheim with a lower-body injury and remains questionable.
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