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Capitals and Flyers battle for Eastern supremacy

by Adam Kimelman
CAPITALS (5-0-0) at FLYERS (4-0-1)


Season Series: This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. They split four games last season, with each game needing more than 60 minutes to decide -- two went to overtime, two to shootouts. In their most recent meeting, Washington won a 5-4 shootout in Philadelphia on March 22. The Caps took a 3-0 lead in the second, but the Flyers responded with four straight to lead 4-3 late in the third. Marcus Johansson scored with 3:19 left to tie the game, and Alexander Semin scored the winner in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

Big Story: The Capitals have started the season with five straight wins for the first time in franchise history. The Flyers are unbeaten in regulation (4-0-1).

Team Scope:

The only healthy player missing from Washington's practice Wednesday was team captain Alex Ovechkin, but coach Bruce Boudreau assured reporters the star scorer isn't injured.

"He's got some bumps and bruises right now," Boudreau told reporters. "It was more of a maintenance day with two more games this week. Just told him to take it off and get some stretching done."

The Washington Post reported Boudreau said the "bumps and bruises" were not related to slashes Ovechkin took on the right hand, one in the third period of the opener against Carolina, and another in the third period against Tampa Bay on Oct. 10.

In five games, Ovechkin has 1 goal and 2 assists.
When you score 19 goals in five games, that production tends to come from all sorts of places. Tuesday against Ottawa, it came from some of their younger players. Four rookies -- Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Harrison Zolnierczyk and Zac Rinaldo -- combined for 3 goals and 5 assists in the 7-2 victory.

Couturier and Zolnierczyk each scored their first NHL goals -- the first time two Flyers scored their first career goals in the same game since Justin Williams and Petr Hubacek did it Oct. 5, 2000 against Vancouver -- while Read had 1 goal and 3 assists.

Read could be the biggest surprise of the group. A 25-year-old undrafted free agent out of Bemidji State, Read earned a spot on the third line to start the season and is tied with Buffalo's Luke Adam for the rookie scoring lead with 6 points. He's seen time at the point on the power play, and he's fourth among all rookies in shorthanded ice time per game, at 3:08.

"I wouldn't say it's easy," Read told Tuesday night. "This is the NHL and nothing comes easy. You just got to work hard. I felt good tonight and had a couple bounces."

Who's Hot:
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has 4 points in his last three games, and leads the team with 6 points. … Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger has points in five straight games, his longest scoring streak since scoring in five straight Jan. 3-12, 2010.

Injury Report:
Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth is out with a bruised right foot, and defenseman Jay Beagle remained off the ice with a suspected concussion dating to his fight with Pittsburgh's Arron Asham last week. … Flyers forward Andreas Nodl is questionable with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack:
The Capitals have gotten a goal from 10 different players this season, more than all but four teams. One of those teams is the Flyers, who have gotten goals from 12 different players. Tampa Bay leads the League with a goal from 13 players.

Puck Drop: Many experts pegged Brayden Schenn as the favorite for the Calder Trophy this season, and after starting 2011-12 in the AHL, Schenn will get a chance to prove those people right.

The Flyers called Schenn up from their farm team, the Adirondack Phantoms, after the forward had 4 goals and 8 points in four games, tying him for third in the AHL in both categories.

To make room for Schenn -- and Jody Shelley, who served the final game of his suspension Tuesday -- Rinaldo and Zolnierczyk were sent to the AHL.

The question now is where Schenn plays. One option could be forming an all-rookie third line, with Schenn going to left wing on a line with Couturier and Read. That would push Scott Hartnell to the fourth line, with Maxime Talbot and Shelley. Hartnell saw time with Talbot during Tuesday's game against Ottawa.

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