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Canucks-Capitals Preview @NHLdotcom

The Washington Capitals are one of only three teams with five 25-goal scorers from last season. It took the first three weeks of 2007-08, however, for them to resemble a club with offensive depth.

The Capitals hope to build on their best offensive performance of the season Friday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks for the first time in almost four years.

Adding free-agent forwards Viktor Kozlov and Michael Nylander and defenseman Tom Poti figured to make the Capitals (4-4-0) a much more productive team after they ranked in the bottom half of the league last season with 235 goals.

Washington, though, managed only 14 goals in its first seven games, and hadn't scored more than three in 16 games dating to last season before Wednesday's 5-3 victory over visiting Tampa Bay.

The team's 16-game run of three or fewer goals was the second-longest such stretch in team history, surpassed only by a 19-game spell in the Capitals' inaugural 1974-75 season.

Moved back to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Kozlov, captain Chris Clark scored his first two goals of the season Wednesday. Clark, who recorded a career-high 30 goals last season, had been used primarily on a checking line before the switch.

"I got a couple of those goose eggs off my board," Clark said, "but to come out with a win was huge."

Ovechkin added a goal and two assists as Washington ended a four-game losing streak.

"We understand each other," Ovechkin said. "We played like we played the last two years: He scored and I scored."

Also providing a boost for the Capitals was the return of left wing Alexander Semin, who came off injured reserve after missing six of seven games with an ankle injury. Semin, who scored a career-high 38 goals last season, was held without a point.

One area where Washington still has work to do is on the power play. That unit went scoreless on four opportunities Wednesday and is 4-for-39 this season.

The Capitals haven't beaten the Canucks in regulation since March 28, 1998. They are 2-6-1 in the last nine meetings, with both wins coming in overtime.

Vancouver's Roberto Luongo has won nine straight starts - three in a shootout - against the Caps, recording two shutouts and a 1.74 goals-against average during that span. Only the most recent appearance - Oct. 27, 2006 - came with the Canucks.

Vancouver (4-6-0) lost its second straight Wednesday, 3-2 at Detroit. The game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated, as the Canucks were outshot 39-15.

Luongo played one of his best games of the season despite losing his fourth consecutive start, stopping 16 shots in the second period.

Vancouver has dropped four of its last five games and backup Curtis Sanford was in net for the lone victory, 4-1 at Columbus on Sunday.

"Losing is frustrating," Luongo told the Canucks' official Web site. "Everything else is beside the point. It's disappointing because you work hard in practice, but in the game we're not getting the results right now."

Besides Luongo's performance, another bright spot for Vancouver was the season debut of defenseman Sami Salo, who fractured his wrist during a scrimmage in training camp.

Salo led Canucks defensemen last season with 14 goals, and his booming shot should be an asset on the power play.

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