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Avalanche seek fifth in row facing Capitals

by John Kreiser /

AVALANCHE (4-0-0) at CAPITALS (1-3-0)


Season series: The Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals will face off against each other for the first time since Dec. 17, 2011, when the Avalanche won 2-1 in Denver. This is Colorado's first visit to Verizon Center since Dec. 11, 2010, when the Avalanche won 3-2. The Capitals return the visit when they come to the Pepsi Center on Nov. 10.

Big story: Patrick Roy is still perfect as an NHL coach. The surprising Avalanche have won all four games and are trying for a sweep of a three-game swing through the East. Colorado isn't scoring a lot, but the Avalanche have allowed three goals in four games, including a 2-0 shutout against the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

The Capitals, who had to overcome a bad start to win their division last season, are digging themselves another hole; their 3-2 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday was their third defeat in four games.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado has won the Stanley Cup twice since moving from Quebec to Denver, but until this year, the Avalanche never started a season by winning their first four games. That changed when Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped all 39 shots he faced in Boston. Colorado, the last-place team in the Western Conference in 2012-13, is on top of the Central Division and is one of two 4-0-0 teams in the NHL (San Jose Sharks).

"Every point you have right now, you don't chase them at the end, which is great," Roy said. "Honestly, we don't really have expectations. We just want to surprise the world of hockey.

"At the same time, we're humble, we take it one day at time, and here we are 4-0 at the start of the year, which is unexpected from a lot of people. But for us, we just take it one day at a time, and hopefully we can win again in Washington [on] Saturday."

Capitals: Washington is wary of a repeat of last season's poor start. The Capitals went 2-8-1 to begin the 2012-13 season but came on strong down the stretch to win the Southeast Division. Realignment has placed them in the Metropolitan Division, which will make it a lot tougher to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We're unhappy with where we are in the standings," forward Troy Brouwer told the Capitals website. "We're OK with how we're playing. But we've got to be able to find ways to close out games. Every game that we've lost, we've had the lead at one point or another. You're going to lose some games, but we've got to be able to hold onto those one-goal leads late, two-goal leads, and making sure that we're giving ourselves a chance to win. We've been tightening up a little bit I think, and we've been taking penalties, which has kind of hurt us the past few games."

Who's hot: Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was traded by the Capitals in the summer of 2012, has stopped 88 of 91 shots while going 3-0-0. … Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has goals in each of the Capitals' first four games, a career first.

Injury report: Colorado has been without defenseman Ryan Wilson (knee) all season. … Washington defenseman John Erskine suffered an upper-body injury Thursday and is day to day. Another defenseman, Jack Hillen (broken right leg), is on long-term injured reserve.

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