CALGARY, AB -- With a perennial Rocket Richard candidate and a potential Olympic participant in net, the Washington Capitals are poised to repeat their promising performance from a year ago.
The team will need Alex Ovechkin to fill the net as he did a year ago, while it’s essential for Braden Holtby to ensure he isn’t fishing pucks out from behind him. Some secondary scoring behind Ovechkin in the form of Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom would go a long way to helping Washington contend for a division title, too.
The formula hasn’t quite worked according to plan just yet, though. The Capitals are just 5-5-0 on the season, but have won three straight and sit third in the Metropolitan Division 36 hours in advance of their game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Last season: 27-18-3, 57 points (3rd in East)
Notable Additions: C Mikhail Grabovski, D Tyson Strachan
Notable Subtractions: C Mike Ribeiro, D Jeff Schultz, C Matt Hendricks, RW Joey Crabb, G Dany Sabourin, LW Wojtek Wolski
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-1
Coming off back-to-back multi-point games where he’s extended his league-leading goal total to 10, Ovechkin is one of the game’s hottest players. The 28-year-old Capitals captain has 15 points on the season, just two behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead in that regard, too. Two of his goals this season came in an earlier meeting against the Flames and in seven career games against Calgary, Ovechkin has eight goals and 15 points.
Erat’s start to the 2013-14 campaign has been disappointing to say the least. The 32-year-old, acquired at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for first round pick Filip Forsberg, has just three points in 10 games this season -- all assists coming against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 19th. Five times this season Capitals coach Adam Oates has kept Erat on the bench for less than 10 minutes of action.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Riding shotgun with Ovechkin, Backstrom has a share of the team-lead in assists with fellow linemate Marcus Johansson at 10. Historically, he hasn’t been shy to use the Flames to push his totals, recording two points in a prior meeting this season between the two clubs, and has nine assists and 11 points in six games all-time against Calgary.
Signed as a free agent by Washington after the Toronto Maple Leafs bought out the final four years of his contract, Grabovski has fared well in his time with the Capitals. The 29-year-old has four goals and eight points in 10 games this season, splitting time between Washington’s second and third lines.
Alzner, a former captain of the Calgary Hitmen, holds a share of the Capitals team-lead with a plus-1 rating and is third on the club in average ice time at 21:13 despite earning virtually no power play time in Washington. Through the first 10 games this season, Alzner’s recorded two assists.