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After visiting White House, Hawks face Caps

by Corey Masisak
BLACKHAWKS (37-24-7) at CAPITALS (39-29-10)


Last 10: Chicago 8-1-1, Washington 9-1-0.

Season Series: This is the lone meeting between the two teams. They met on NBC last season 364 days ago in a wild contest. Alex Ovechkin was ejected for boarding Brian Campbell and Chicago took a 3-0 lead, but Washington rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory.

Big Story: Two of the hottest teams in the League have rallied from an inconsistent start to the season and both look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders again.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago began this road trip with its eighth straight victory, but the Blackhawks were swept by the Florida teams. They've spent the past three nights in Washington, and activities included visiting with President Barack Obama at the White House to celebrate the team’s championship last season and a scrimmage with wounded veterans of the country’s Armed Forces after practice in Arlington, Va., on Saturday.

"I hope the city of Washington has taken very good care of them," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They'll be ready to play -- they are champions. They just got honored by the President. They're not going to want to come in and play a stinker after something like that. They'll be at there absolute best."

Capitals: Washington used a 14-game winning streak to move to the top of the Eastern Conference and capture the Presidents’ Trophy. The Capitals are currently halfway to matching that franchise-record stretch after winning their seventh straight contest Friday night against Carolina.

Semyon Varlamov is sidelined with a knee injury and Michal Neuvirth missed time after a piece of metal from his mask entered his eye when a puck deflected off it, so 21-year-old Braden Holtby has had a chance for some NHL playing time.

Neuvirth is ready to return, but Holtby isn't ready to relinquish the net. He's 5-0-1 with a .977 save percentage in his past six NHL appearances, including 40 saves Friday and he said he’s been told to expect the start against the Blackhawks.

Who's Hot: Chicago captain Jonathan Toews has 9 goals and 18 points in his past 11 games for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane has 14 points and Marian Hossa has 12 in that span -- much of which they’ve spent together as Chicago's top line. Washington captain Alex Ovechkin has 18 points in his past 12 games, and Holtby has stopped 82 of 83 shots in the three games since he was recalled from Hershey of the AHL.

Injury Report: Defenseman Jordan Hendry (knee) is out for the season for Chicago. Center Dave Bolland (head) is out against the Capitals, while defenseman Brian Campbell (lower body) is a game-time decision. Washington's No. 1 center, Nicklas Backstrom, will miss his third straight game because of a thumb injury. Defensemen Mike Green (head) and Tom Poti (groin) also remain out.

Stat Pack: Might be a good bet to say Chicago will score first in this game -- the Blackhawks lead the League with 74 first-period goals while Washington is last in the NHL with 39. Don't bet against a Washington comeback, either. Not only did the Capitals rally from three goals down last year against Chicago, they are second in the NHL with eight victories when trailing after the second period -- and first with 15 wins when behind at the first intermission.

Puck Drop: This is the first time these two teams will meet since Ovechkin's hit on Campbell left him out of the lineup with a shoulder injury for the final 14 games of the regular season and the first three playoff contests with a broken collarbone.

Boudreau said he doesn’t expect any type of retribution from the Blackhawks. Ovechkin was suspended for two games because of the play.

"Everyone knows it wasn’t a dirty hit," Boudreau said. "I think they know, too -- they just lobbied for the suspension."

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