THRASHERS (13-10-3) at CAPITALS (18-7-2)
TV -- FS-S (HD), CSN-DC (HD)
Last 10 --
Atlanta 6-4-0; Washington 6-3-1
Season series --
In an odd twist in the schedule, Atlanta and Washington have already played four times. The Capitals won the first three meetings, but Atlanta blanketed Washington for a 5-0 win the last time they played.
Big Story --
Both Atlanta and Washington are coming off rare losses when you factor how each was playing heading into its respective games Thursday night. The Thrashers rode a six-game winning streak into Pittsburgh, but Sidney Crosby burned them for a natural hat trick in a 3-2 loss. The Capitals had won four in a row going into Dallas, but their would-be tying goal with 7.6 seconds left in the third period was waved off by referee Dan O'Rourke, who ruled that Alex Ovechkin
interfered with Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft. The Caps are seething and no doubt remember how they played the last time they faced the Thrashers. This one could get interesting.
One loss to the streaking Penguins shouldn't erase all the positive energy around the Thrashers. Heck, if it weren't for Crosby's greatness they might have won their seventh in a row. But Crosby was Crosby and the Thrashers had no answer. However, Ondrej Pavelec, who fell to 0-6 against Pittsburgh, is still playing well. He's given up only eight goals in the last seven games, but only five go to guys not named Sidney. Atlanta had some good chances in the third period against the Penguins, but only generated five shots on goal and 22 for the game. They were missing Evander Kane, who is second on the team with 9 goals. Kane (left knee injury) practiced Friday, but his status for Saturday's game remains in doubt.
"It's up to him, really," Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "You've got a bad bruise. (He took) a shot in a bad spot. Now it's really whether or not he can skate. Today he tried it, and while he was able to get around, he wasn't as effective. One of the things he brings to the table is that ability to explode. We are not going to put him in a vulnerable situation."
Ovechkin's goal-less streak hit nine games Thursday. Ovi is stuck on 10, but the feeling is that the longer he goes without one the more dangerous he becomes. It's almost as if everyone in the League is just waiting for him to have one of those four- or five-goal nights. The Thrashers hope it doesn't happen on their watch. Washington didn't practice Friday, but did hold team meetings. Coach Bruce Boudreau liked what he saw from recently acquired defenseman Scott Hannan in his Capitals' debut Thursday. Hannan will be paired with Tom Poti
when he returns to the lineup from his groin strain.
"I thought he was really steady," Boudreau told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Friday. "He has great gap control and he knows how to play defense. He's a big-bodied guy that is going to get in the way. He blocked five shots. It's something we talked about that we needed."
Who's Hot --
Ovechkin may not have a goal in nine games, but he has 8 assists over the span. Mike Knuble
has a point in two straight games and he's a plus-4 over the last four games. … Thrashers forward Anthony Stewart has points in three straight games and four of the last five.
Injury Report --
Poti remains out of Washington's lineup with a groin strain. … The Thrashers won't know until Saturday morning or perhaps not until pre-game warm-ups if Kane will be able to play.
Stat Pack --
Washington is 22nd in the NHL in power-play opportunities (93), but tied for fourth with 23 power-play goals. The Capitals are 5-for-14 over their last five games. Atlanta is ranked 18th in penalty killing at 80 percent (72 for 90). However, the Capitals were 0-for-4 on the power play in their last meeting against the Thrashers.
Puck Drop --
Boudreau on Byfuglien: "When you're 260 pounds and you're 6-foot-4 it's pretty hard to cover you. But you know what, when we faced him in Norfolk early in his career, it takes defensemen, some of them, four or five years to develop and maybe Chicago … thought playing him at the wing was the proper thing to do, but he seems to have found a niche and he's definitely on a role. He's a priority to stop."