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Canadiens-Capitals Preview

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (17-9-6) at Washington Capitals (11-19-2).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

Alexander Ovechkin continues to be one bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Washington Capitals.

Ovechkin and the Capitals look to post consecutive wins for just the second time this season when they play host to the Montreal Canadiens at MCI Center.

The Caps have not won back-to-back games since Nov. 4-6.

Ovechkin ended a brief scoreless drought in a big way Thursday, recording a goal and three assists in regulation and the lone goal in the shootout of a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

"If you don't shoot the puck, how are you going to score goals?" Ovechkin asked.

The 20-year old has not had the hype of fellow rookie Sidney Crosby, but he's been every bit as good as the Pittsburgh Penguins' rookie.

However, Ovechkin has continually downplayed any comparisons.

"I don't want to be like everybody," Ovechkin said. "I want to be like it's me. That's it."

The result has been good enough for the Capitals as Ovechkin leads all rookies in goals (19) and points (38), while tying Crosby for the lead with 19 assists.

He had five shots on goal and was held without a point Washington's only game against Montreal this season.

Montreal's Alexei Kovalev will try to build off a record-setting night in his last game.

Kovalev came back after missing 13 games following knee surgery, had a goal, two assists in regulation and added a shootout tally as the Canadiens completed their biggest rally in eight years Wednesday with a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

The goal was the 300th of his career and the first assist was his 700th point.

"The way the fans support me here is unbelievable," Kovalev said. "It gives you an extra boost and, I don't think I really need the confidence, but definitely gives you extra energy to come out the next time and beat the next team."

It was the first time the Canadiens had overcome a three-goal deficit to win since a 4-3 overtime victory against St. Louis on Dec. 10, 1997.

Kovalev has 13 goals and 21 assists in 47 games against Washington.

Montreal has scored power-play goals in seven straight games against Washington.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 22): Canadiens - 40 points, 3rd place, 9 PB, Northeast Division. Capitals - 24 points, 5th place, 22 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 16 goals; Saku Koivu, 19 assists and 27 points; Steve Begin, 79 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 19 goals, 19 assists and 38 points; Brendan Witt, 80 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 22): Canadiens - Power play: 18.8 percent (38 for 202), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.6 percent (170 for 211), 23rd. Capitals - Power play: 13 percent (25 for 193), 29th. Penalty killing: 77.4 percent (178 for 230), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Jose Theodore (13-7-5, 0 SO, 3.06 GAA); Yann Danis (3-2-0, 1, 2.69). Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (9-13-2, 0, 3.36); Brent Johnson (2-5-0, 0, 4.93).

SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 19; Capitals, 5-1. At Montreal, Brian Sutherby scored twice and Kolzig made 43 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 6-4-4 on the road; Capitals - 7-8-1 at home.

Associated Press
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