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Capitals stand in way of Bruins' final playoff push

by Brian Hunter
BRUINS (36-30-12) at CAPITALS (51-15-12)

Last 10: Boston 6-4-0; Washington 6-1-3

Season series:
Third of four meetings -- the Bruins must pay two visits to the Verizon Center in the span of seven days to conclude the regular season. Washington won twice in Boston earlier this season by identical 4-1 scores. Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich each scored twice for the Capitals on opening night and added goals in the most recent matchup on Feb. 2.

Big story: The schedule maker didn't do the Bruins any favors by giving them two stops in Washington in the final four games as they try to nail down one of the final Eastern Conference playoff berths. Then again, the Capitals have yet to see Tuukka Rask this season, as Tim Thomas started the previous two meetings. Rask leads the League in both goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.931) and should be a lock to start Monday.

Team Scope:

The results lately have been what you would expect for a team that doesn't give up many goals but has also averaged the fewest goals per game in the League. Boston has scored just three times in its last three games, but won two of those games in overtime. Rask has allowed just two goals in 187 minutes over that span. He shut out New Jersey, lost 1-0 to Florida and most recently turned aside 27 of 28 shots in a 2-1 win Saturday in Toronto. Miroslav Satan scored his second of the game with 1:35 left in the extra period.

"I didn't feel any pressure, I can tell you," Satan said. "I mean, we knew it's an important game for us. The last few weeks every game has been important, so the feeling doesn't change. It's an urgency to produce and to get as many points as we can. They probably wanted to spoil this game for us and we're happy that we got another two points. It looks a little better for us after today."

Capitals: The final week of the regular season for Washington will be about getting everyone back healthy, playing good hockey heading into the playoffs and checking the standings to find out who wins the battle for the eighth seed and becomes the Capitals' first-round opponent. They come into this game off one-goal victories over Atlanta and Columbus. Jose Theodore made 34 saves against the Blue Jackets to improve to 18-0-3 since Jan. 12.

"I've been feeling pretty good about my game the past few months -- as good as I've felt in many years," Theodore said.

Who's hot: David Krejci has five goals and 11 assists in his last 13 games for the Bruins. Zdeno Chara has two goals and four assists in his last seven games. Rask owns a .949 save percentage over his last seven appearances.

Alexander Semin has six goals in his last seven games for the Capitals and his 38 for the season tie a career high. Mike Green has two goals and an assist during a three-game points streak.

Injury report:
Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg suffered a skate laceration to his left wrist Saturday but got stitched up and should be able to play Monday. Fellow blueliner Mark Stuart (hand) and forward Shawn Thornton (upper body) are considered day-to-day. Defenseman Andrew Ference (groin) is out indefinitely. Forward Marc Savard (concussion) is on injured reserve.

Washington defenseman Milan Jurcina is out indefinitely following sports hernia surgery, but defenseman John Carlson (upper body) and forwards Brendan Morrison (lower body), Scott Walker (knee) and Boyd Gordon (back) are all close to returning.

Stat pack: The NHL's best offense in Washington (3.80 goals per game) goes up against its weakest in Boston (2.36). However, the Bruins' 2.33 team goals-against average is second only to New Jersey (2.32), while the Capitals are a mere 17th at 2.78.

Puck drop: It's possible these teams could see even more of each other in the weeks to come, as this is a definite first-round playoff possibility. Monday's game will be televised nationally by Versus in the U.S. and TSN and RDS in Canada.

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