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Bruins-Capitals Preview

GAME: Boston Bruins (12-17-6) at Washington Capitals (12-19-2).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

Washington Capitals rookie Alexander Ovechkin has played in only 33 NHL games, but he is fitting right in among the league leaders.

Ovechkin and the Capitals look for a season-high third consecutive victory when they host the struggling Boston Bruins.

Washington has won two straight for just the second time all season, and Ovechkin, who ranks in the NHL's top 10 in goals, has totaled five points in those victories.

The rookie left wing scored his 20th goal of the season in the Capitals' 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.

"I had lots of chances this game to score my 20th goal," said Ovechkin, who finished with a team-high five shots. "I could have shot better and I would have scored 22 goals."

Ovechkin, who leads all rookies in goals and scoring with 39 points, became the first Capitals rookie to score 20 goals in a season since the 1981-82 season when Bobby Carpenter (32) and Chris Valentine (30) accomplished the feat.

Washington scored all four goals against Montreal in the third period and Jeff Halpern recorded three assists for the first time since the season opener.

Goaltender Olaf Kolzig made 41 saves for the Capitals, including 17 in the third period.

"We believe he's the best goalie in the league," said Matt Pettinger, who scored the game-winning goal with under eight minutes remaining. "Every night he's in net, he gives us a chance to win and that's what he gave us (Friday)."

Kolzig has faced more than 40 shots in seven games and ranks among the league leaders with 770 saves. He has a .919 save percentage over his last four starts.

In his last nine home games against the Bruins, Kolzig has five wins with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.

Boston has lost five of seven, and is coming off a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sergei Samsonov scored the Bruins' goal off a power play in the second period, but Boston's third-period shooting woes continued. The Bruins had just six shots during the third and have just 39 in that period over the last seven games.

Boston is averaging 24.6 shots since Dec. 4, fewest in the league.

Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen finished with 26 saves and has a 1.67 GAA and a .943 save percentage in his last three games, but is just 1-1-1.

Boston has been limited to seven goals in its last five road games.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 26): Bruins - 30 points, 5th place, 23 PB, Northeast Division. Capitals - 26 points, 5th place, 23 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Bruins - Samsonov, 14 goals and 28 points; Samsonov, Brad Boyes and Brian Leetch, 14 assists; Jiri Slegr and Hal Gill, 48 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 20 goals and 39 points; Ovechkin and Halpern, 19 assists; Brendan Witt, 82 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 26): Bruins - Power play: 17.3 percent (34 for 197), 16th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (185 for 224), 13th. Capitals - Power play: 12.9 percent (26 for 202), 29th. Penalty killing: 77.8 percent (186 for 239), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (5-13-2, 0 SO, 3.36 GAA); Toivonen (7-4-4, 1, 2.87). Capitals - Kolzig (10-13-2, 3.31); Brent Johnson (2-5-0, 4.93).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Bruins, 2-1-1-0.

LAST MEETING: April 1, 2004; 3-3 tie. At Boston, the Bruins' Dan McGillis had a goal and an assist while Kolzig made 35 saves for the Capitals, including four in overtime.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bruins - 6-11-4 on the road; Capitals - 8-8-1 at home.

Associated Press
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