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Capitals try for season sweep of Senators

by John Kreiser
CAPITALS (43-21-10) at SENATORS (28-37-9)


Last 10 --
Washington 9-1-0; Ottawa 6-4-0

Season series -- It's the last of this season's four meetings, with Washington  looking for a sweep. The Caps have a pair of 3-2 wins and beat the Senators 3-1 in their most recent meeting on Jan. 16.

Big story -- The Caps enter the fifth game of their six-game trip as the hottest team in the NHL with 12 wins in their last 13 games. A victory at Scotiabank Place will give them 98 points, matching Philadelphia for the most in the East. But the Senators have been a much-improved club over the past few weeks and come home after a 2-1 shootout win against the Rangers in new York on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- Not even the absence of Alex Ovechkin can slow down the Caps. Ovi missed Tuesday's game in Philadelphia and the Capitals still scored four times before winning in a shootout to clinch a playoff berth.

With a chance to catch the Flyers for the top spot in the East, coach Bruce Boudreau said there's no chance his team will overlook the last-place Senators before visiting Montreal on Saturday.

"I've come to the feeling that's there's just no weak team with the salary cap," he said. "There's no chance we'll take Ottawa lightly."

Senators -- The return of goaltender Craig Anderson was just what the Senators needed in New York. Anderson, returning after missing three games with a lower-body injury, made 29 saves through overtime and was 5-for-5 in the shootout before Erik Karlsson scored for the win.

"We've got a lot of pride in our room," Anderson said. "You want to finish strong. It doesn't matter happened through the first 60 games or so."

Who's hot -- Mike Knuble has given the Caps a boost offensively with back-to-back three-point games. He reached the 20-goal mark by scoring on Tuesday, the eighth straight season he's had at least 20 goals. … Ryan Shannon scored Ottawa's lone regulation goal on Thursday and has scored in four of the Senators' last five games.

Injury report -- Ovechkin, sitting out with an undisclosed injury, could be back next week. Center Jason Arnott (undisclosed) and defenseman Mike Green (concussion) are still out, as is defenseman Tom Poti (groin). ... For Ottawa, Daniel Alfredsson (lower back), Matt Carkner (lower body),Milan Michalek (left foot), and Pascal Leclaire (lower body) are all out indefinitely. CenterPeter Regin is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Stat pack -- The Caps have gone from winning with offense to winning with defense -- especially on special teams. The penalty-killers have improved from 25th (78.8 percent) last season to second (85.9 percent) this season; the power play has dropped from a League-leading 25.2 percent in 2009-10 to 16.9 percent (18th) so far this season.

Puck drop -- The Senators have known for a while that they're not going to the playoffs, but with Anderson in goal and a lot of kids in the lineup, they have no intention of just playing out the schedule. Thursday's win was their 10th in 16 games, and came on a night when they outplayed the Rangers for most of the game.

"We're not going to let up," coach Cory Clouston said. "We keep pushing the players. They responded very well. We did a good job of creating momentum right at the start and we did a good job of taking the crowd out."

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