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Capitals hope to continue success in Winnipeg

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- The Washington Capitals return to where they triggered the beginning of the Winnipeg Jets' demise last spring.

Southeast Division members until NHL realignment split them this past summer, the Capitals and Jets will reunite at MTS Centre when they meet Tuesday in the Capitals' only visit to Winnipeg this season.

In March the Capitals took 4-0 and 6-1 wins in back-to-back games in Winnipeg that triggered a month-long run that pushed the Capitals past the Jets to an eventual Southeast Division title. The Capitals, who begin a season-long five-game road trip Tuesday, have shut out the Jets in three of the teams' past five meetings in Winnipeg, outscoring them 16-4 in those five games.

"[The back-to-back wins were] the turning [point] of our season," Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said after the team's morning skate. "Our team played great here."

Washington (3-5-0) will have defenseman John Erskine back in its defensive rotation after he missed four games with an upper-body injury. Erskine will dress in place of Alexander Urbom.

"He is one of our top-six," Capitals coach Adam Oates said of Erskine. "We need him healthy. We need him contributing things. He's a physical presence out there."

The Jets (4-5-0) finish their six-game homestand against the Capitals on Tuesday and then leave town on a four-game trip through the Central Division. Winnipeg has two wins during the homestand so far, and the team has been under heavy pressure from fans and coach Claude Noel to find a level of consistency.

Noel held a team meeting Monday and later issued a pointed public critique of the team's performance.

"We just would like to see some responses," Noel said after the Jets' optional skate Tuesday at MTS Centre. "[I] have to help them. That's what [I] coach for. I've got to do a better job of helping them. They've got to do a better job of helping each other and helping themselves."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said he also wants to see his team answer the criticism that has surrounded its performance so far.

"Hopefully guys are [angry] about how things have been going," Ladd said. "It's time to see how [we] react."

The Winnipeg penalty kill enters action Tuesday 12th in the League, but they've allowed the third-most power plays so far this season. Staying away from the Capitals' top-ranked power play will be a priority for Noel. The Capitals have scored two or more power-play goals in four of their first eight games this season.

The Jets again will be without defenseman Mark Stuart, who injured his hip Friday and missed the Jets' 3-1 loss against the Nashville Predators on Sunday. Left wing Eric Tangradi, a healthy scratch the past two games, likely will not play Tuesday.

Noel will move right wing Devin Setoguchi to the Jets' top line with Ladd and Bryan Little and send right wing Blake Wheeler, who has one goal this season, to the team's second line, with Evander Kane and Mark Scheifele.

Oates expects to face a desperate home team.

"Based on the interviews," Oates said, "I see a frustrated team. They're a very, very good hockey team that might not be running on all cylinders right now. We talked today about how we have to keep them frustrated and what we have to do to [make] that happen."

Holtby will face Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

Here are the probable lineups for the Capitals and Jets on Tuesday:


Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti - Eric Fehr - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

John Erskine - Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jay Beagle, Alexander Urbom

Injured: Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)


Evander Kane - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Devin Setoguchi

Matt Halischuk - Olli Jokinen - Michael Frolik

James Wright - Patrice Cormier - Anthony Peluso

Grant Clitsome - Dustin Byfuglien

Tobias Enstrom - Zach Bogosian

Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Scratched: Eric Tangradi

Injured: Jim Slater (undisclosed), Mark Stuart (lower body), Chris Thorburn (lower body), Jacob Trouba (upper body)

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