Nov. 16 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 14-3-4
Boston Bruins 12-3-4
The Caps finish up a set of back-to-back games and make the first of two visits to Boston this season on Saturday night when they go up against the Bruins at TD Garden. Saturday's game pits the two top teams in the Eastern Conference, both of which have suffered only three regulation losses to date.
While the Bruins come into Saturday's contest on the heels of a road victory in Toronto, the Caps are coming in off their first regulation loss in more than a month. Washington dropped a 5-2 home ice decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night at Capital One Arena. After a scoreless first period, the Caps were dented for four goals against in a span of just over eight minutes in the middle of the middle frame, and the four-goal chasm proved to be too much to overcome.
Washington scored twice in the third, but suffered its first regulation loss since Oct. 14, ending a 13-game point streak (11-0-2). Friday's loss was the first regulation setback the Caps have suffered at the hands of an Eastern Conference opponent this season.
"We made a push at the end, but we weren't sharp tonight," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "For the most part, we've been really consistent this year, and that game we were off. That's the good thing about a back-to-back, is we're right back at it [Saturday]. We'll make some adjustments to our group for [Saturday], and get prepared to take on an obviously excellent Boston team."
The Caps were a bit hamstrung from the outset of Friday's game because of a couple of injuries to their forward corps and their precarious salary cap situation. With forwards Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin both sidelined because of upper body ailments, the Caps were left with just 11 healthy forwards, one fewer than a typical full complement. Additionally, they didn't have the necessary salary cap space with which to recall a forward from AHL Hershey, but did have just enough space to recall blueliner Tyler Lewington, who skated some shifts on the blueline and up front.
After the game, the Caps returned Lewington to Hershey, and sent goaltender Ilya Samsonov - who suffered the loss to Montreal on Friday - to the Bears as well, recalling netminder Vitek Vanecek and forward Travis Boyd from Hershey. Vanecek's salary cap hit of $716,667 is lower than Samsonov's $925,000 figure, enabling the Caps to get Boyd up as a 12th healthy forward against the Bruins. Hagelin and Dowd are both listed as day-to-day, and neither is expected to play on Saturday against the Bruins.
The Caps are off to the best start in franchise history, but they've not played to their ceiling in the last three games. Friday's performance was especially rocky, particularly in the second period, so it's probably a good thing that they're able to get back at it a night later and get a fresh start.
"I think so," says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. "I know we're obviously not happy with how we played [Friday] night, and [Saturday] - especially against Boston; they were in the Final last year - is going to be a big test for us."
Boston lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final series to St. Louis on home ice last June, but the Bruins have shown few ill effects from their short summer. The B's roared out of the starting gates with three straight wins, and later reeled off half a dozen wins in a row.
On Friday night in Toronto, the Bruins earned a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs, a victory that halted a four-game Boston slide (0-2-2). The B's have yet to suffer a regulation loss this season at TD Garden, going 7-0-3 on home ice thus far. But they have dropped their last two home games via the shootout, falling to Philadelphia on Sunday and Florida on Tuesday. In the loss to the Panthers, Boston squandered a four-goal third-period lead, and was forced to settle for a single point.
The Bruins have managed to get off to a swift start despite a rash of early season injuries. Boston has not quite reached the quarter mark of the season yet, but heading into Friday's game with the Leafs, the B's had already lost a total of 69 man games to injury.