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Capitals can clinch Southeast by beating Jets

by John Kreiser /

JETS (24-19-3) at CAPITALS (25-18-2)


Last 10: Winnipeg 6-3-1; Washington 9-1-0

Season series: This is the last time the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets will meet as Southeast Division rivals. They've played four times this season, with Winnipeg winning its lone visit to Verizon Center and Washington winning all three visits to Winnipeg.

Big story: The Capitals can clinch the Southeast Division and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference if they defeat the Jets in regulation or overtime. On the flip side, this is the season for the Jets. If they win, they'll have 53 points and jump ahead of the Capitals into first place in the Southeast (though Washington will have a game in hand). A regulation loss would not only eliminate the Jets from the division race, but could also end their hopes of making the top eight in the East playoff race.

Team Scope:

Jets: Winnipeg's final road trip of the regular season got off to a successful start when the Jets edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Monday night. Antti Miettinen's goal with 7:36 left in regulation broke a 1-1 tie. Aaron Gagnon also scored for the Jets, and Ondrej Pavelec made 24 saves.

But make no mistake - the Jets know what's at stake when they take the ice Tuesday night.

"I think it's been circled on our calendar for a long time now," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "We wanted to put ourselves in a position where tomorrow's going to be a meaningful game, and we've done that. So here it is."

Capitals: The Capitals no longer need any help from anyone. After a 2-8-1 start that dropped them to the bottom of the division, the Capitals have grabbed first place with a 9-1-0 stretch. They won eight in a row before starting a two-game road trip with a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, but bounced back with a 5-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

A win in regulation or overtime will give them the division title and the third seed in the East. A regulation loss would mean Washington would likely need to win its last two games to move past the Jets.

"There's still three games in the season," center Mike Ribeiro told the Washington Times. "Obviously [this is] a big game for both sides, and for us you beat them, you're in. But you need to take that like, 'OK, it's not the end of the world,' either."

Who's hot: Ladd was the NHL's First Star of the Week. He has 10 points in his past five games. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is 6-0-1 in his past seven games. … Alex Ovechkin has fueled Washington's surge. He leads the NHL in goals with 30, including two on Saturday, and has four goals and seven points in his past four games. Ribeiro has a goal and eight assists during a five-game points streak.

Injury report: The Jets are banged up after losing center Olli Jokinen (ankle) and defenseman Zach Bogosian (concussion) in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. Center Nik Antropov has missed eight games with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Toby Enstrom (mid-body injury) is also out, and forward Kyle Wellwood didn't return for the third period after taking a shot by Buffalo's Thomas Vanek off his right hand in the second. … The Capitals are without forwards Joel Ward (knee) and Brooks Laich (groin) as well as defenseman Tom Poti (back).

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