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Goal-strapped Caps face test in East-leading Flyers

Tuesday, 01.18.2011 / 2:49 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Goal-strapped Caps face test in East-leading Flyers
Alex Ovechkin knows what's at stake when the Capitals challenge the Flyers on Tuesday -- he and Nicklas Backstrom would also like to rev up the goal-scoring engines once again.
PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Ovechkin called it "a huge test for us," and Nicklas Backstrom nodded his head in agreement when asked if Tuesday night's game against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers is a statement game for the Washington Capitals.

"We had a good challenge against Vancouver Friday night and this is another big game," Backstrom told NHL.com Tuesday morning. "We're playing a great team tonight and we have to be on top of our game to get two points."

He's right, but it's safe to say that the Capitals can't be on the top of their game until Ovechkin and Backstrom start scoring.

Ovechkin has 5 goals in the last 20 games and a pedestrian (by his standards) 15 in 46 games this season. Backstrom has been even quieter with no goals in the last 20 games and just 11 in the same 46 games this season.


The Capitals are 7-8-5 and averaging just two goals per game since Backstrom last scored. They're 10-2-1 this season when Ovechkin scores at least one, but have won only 15 of 33 games when he gets shut out.

"When you're a scorer and you don't score, you can have the persona outside the rink that everything is great but it eats at you because this is what you've been doing your whole life," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're true professionals and they're working real hard to get out of it and everything, but I would think that it bothers them."

Ovechkin admitted it does. He said it's even more frustrating when you work for scoring chances and they don't go in.

"When you score almost 50 goals every year and you're struggling to score goals, of course you're going to think what's happening to you, why don't you score?" he said. "I want to score, I want to play like I always play. Right now maybe I need some kind of moment."

The Capitals might need that moment Tuesday to beat the Flyers.

Philadelphia is coming off a 10-game stretch in which nine were on the road. The Flyers went 7-3 to not just stay afloat in the Eastern Conference, but surge to a three-point lead.

The Flyers are playing with an unflappable confidence and unlike the Capitals, who have been juggling lines to try to get out of their scoring funk, their lineup has stayed fairly consistent.

"You look for consistency and to this point in the year we've been fairly consistent with our game," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

No line has been more consistent than the trio of Ville Leino, Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell. They've combined for 28 points over the last seven games.

"I know where the guys are going and they know where I'm going, so it makes it fun because we can just play on instincts and enjoy hockey," Leino told NHL.com. "Nobody is trying to do somebody else's job. We all think the same way about hockey, but we have different roles and we play different ways. It's easier that way."

Ovechkin and Backstrom long for the days when scoring didn't seem like the world's greatest challenge.

It won't be easy Tuesday, but if either can create that "moment" the entire team might come out of its offensive shell.

"It's been working before; it's just a matter of time that it'll bounce in," Backstrom said. "Who knows, maybe tonight?"

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


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