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Capitals, Red Wings start home-and-home series

by John Kreiser

CAPITALS (24-22-8) at RED WINGS (23-19-11)


Last 10: Washington 2-6-2; Detroit 4-5-1

Season series: The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings begin a home-and-home series when they play for the second time at Joe Louis Arena. Washington won 4-3 in a shootout in Detroit on Nov. 15. The teams play again in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

Big story: Neither team is playing well as the schedule approaches the Olympic break, and each has dropped out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington appeared to have righted itself by winning back-to-back games after losing seven in a row. But nothing went right Thursday in a 5-2 road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"The last two games we were going in the right direction but we didn't have our best effort in the first two periods," forward Troy Brouwer said. "It's been a long time since you could say we didn't work hard."

It was an especially bad night for two of Washington's top players. Defenseman Mike Green left the game after being checked into the glass by Boone Jenner in the first period, and NHL goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin didn't score and was minus-5.

"I was today the worst player out there," Ovechkin said. "The blame is on me. I can't play like that and I have to bounce back. I was out there all five goals. I feel bad for my team. I have to lead by example but today I was bad."

Red Wings: Detroit had two days off after a 5-0 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday that marked their third consecutive shutout away from home, something that hadn't happened to the franchise since 1928.

The good news is that help is on the way. Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard will be back after missing four games with a sprained left knee, and center Henrik Zetterberg (lower back) may be ready to go. Coach Mike Babcock said Thursday he thought his captain would be able to play. Zetterberg leads the Red Wings with 44 points in 40 games.

"We just have to see," Zetterberg told the media Thursday. "We've done everything we could so it doesn't get worse and now just hopefully stay on this path and it keeps getting better."

Who's hot: Despite a tough night in Columbus, Ovechkin has four goals and seven points in his past four games. … Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist has six points in the past five games.

Injury report: The Capitals said Green will make the trip from Columbus to Detroit and will be evaluated. Forward Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) is not on the road trip. Defenseman Jack Hillen (right tibia surgery) skated Monday and hopes to return before the end of the season. … Red Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (concussion), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and Cory Emmerton (finger) are out.

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