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Capitals hope to use history as guide against Bruins

by Corey Masisak
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals lost to the New Jersey Devils three times in the early part of last season, including a 5-2 defeat that was the team's worst effort of the first two months.

When the Capitals faced the Devils for the fourth time, they were determined to avoid a season sweep and talked of a "statement game" leading up to a 4-1 victory. Washington has won eight of its first 12 games this season, but the Boston Bruins are responsible for two of the four defeats.

The Capitals face the Bruins for a third time in this young season, and they expect to have a similar approach Friday at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) to the one they had in that December game against the Devils a year ago.

"I'm sure we'll talk about it," defenseman John Erskine said. "You always want to win the season series. Right now, we're down two games to nothing. We put together a couple of decent games against them but we haven't played anywhere near 60 minutes against them. We have to come out hard with a good start and go from there."

"We put together a couple of decent games against them but we haven't played anywhere near 60 minutes against them. We have to come out hard with a good start and go from there." -- John Erskine

Added center Nicklas Backstrom: "I think it is really important. We've lost against them twice already and that is never good. We want to get back at them and play as good as we can against these guys. It is going to be tough. They are a really good team and they've been really good so far. Their goaltending has been unbelievable."

Washington's other two losses were opening night in Atlanta and the second of a road back-to-back in Minnesota. In both of those games the Capitals clearly did not play as well as expected.

Coach Bruce Boudreau has had much less to criticize after the two losses to the Bruins, which came in back-to-back games in mid-October. The Capitals put 75 shots on net against goaltender Tim Thomas, including several prime opportunities around the edge of the goal crease.

Thomas, with the help of a stingy defense in front of him, has proven to be up to the task of slowing the League's top offensive team from last season.

"They don't give you much," center Boyd Gordon said. "They play pretty tight defensively and they're not overly risky. If you try to force plays up the middle or try to make a play that's not there, they will capitalize on you. It is just one of those things where you have to play a simple game and hope that is enough."

Added forward Matt Hendricks: "Their style is they play very defensive. They have good defensemen. They're a dedicated team that works hard and blocks shots and they've got great goaltending. For us to beat them we have to try and get a lot of traffic in front of Thomas and put a lot of rubber at him."

It looks like Hendricks will be back in the lineup after missing Wednesday's game against Toronto. Hendricks was a late addition to Washington's training camp roster as an invitee, but not only did he make the team but earned a sweater for the first 11 games of the season.

Always a physical player, Hendricks quickly endeared himself to his teammates when he took issue with a hit by Boston's Gregory Campbell on Alex Ovechkin during the teams' first preseason game. In the second game, they fought off the opening faceoff.

The duo fought again in the teams’ first regular-season meeting, and Campbell proceeded to take three more penalties in the game, with each of the infractions coming against Hendricks.

"I don't know if it is a feud," Hendricks said. "I think he took a cheap shot on our No. 1 player in an exhibition and he answered the bell for it the next (game). I'm sure he wanted a little redemption the next time so I answered the bell for him. That's just kind of the way our style of play works out in games."

The Bruins have outscored the Capitals 7-2 in the first two meetings and are responsible for Washington's largest margin of defeat this season. In that 4-1 victory, the Bruins also scored half of the six power-play goals the Capitals have yielded to this point.

"They're at the top of their game right now," Boudreau said. "During the season I'm sure they're going to have a low spot, but it's not happening yet. It is going to be a tough challenge for us."
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