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Capitals try to stay perfect as they visit Oilers

by Davis Harper

CAPITALS (7-0-0) at OILERS (4-2-2)


Season Series:
This is the first and only meeting of the season between the two teams. The Capitals have won three of their last four against Edmonton, including their last matchup, a 5-0 drubbing on March 9, 2011. in Washington.

Big Story: Can the Oilers slow down the undefeated Caps? Coming off a 7-1 thrashing of the Red Wings at home on Saturday, Alex Ovechkin & Co. are 7-0-0 and looking extremely strong as they start a two-game Western Canada swing. … For the home team, Thursday's game is top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' last before his entry-level contract kicks in. Despite his team-leading goal (5) and point (8) totals, Edmonton has not announced whether they will keep the No. 1 pick in last June's Entry Draft or send him back to juniors.

Team Scope:

While Ovechkin hasn't been lighting up the stat sheet -- he has 7 points on 3 goals and 4 assists -- Washington keeps rolling thanks to a team effort on both sides of the puck. Offensively, point production is spread evenly -- the Detroit romp saw all four lines factor into the scoring. Five players have at least five assists, and four have scored at least three goals. In the crease, Tomas Vokoun carries a 6-0-0 record and 1.80 goals against average into Rexall Place. Still, coach Bruce Boudreau cautioned against prematurely crowning the Caps.

"We're getting lucky bounces at the right times, and Thursday we might not get any of the bounces," Boudreau said. "Things are going our way right now, but as we all know in sports, they can change in a heartbeat."

Oilers: A very young Edmonton team has surprised many by starting the season 4-2-2, with all four wins coming against playoff teams from 2010-11 -- most recently a 3-2 decision against Vancouver on Tuesday. Youth has been key in Edmonton's attack, as the top three Oilers in terms of points are all under 21. In addition to the 18-year-old Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall (19) and Jordan Eberle (21) both have seven points. Playing on the same line against the Canucks, the trio combined for a plus-6 rating, with Hall and Eberle each notching a goal. Nugent-Hopkins said he was looking forward to testing the Oilers' progression against the League's best.

"It's going to be pretty cool to play against Ovechkin; I've been watching him for a long time," Nugent-Hopkins said. "They're a team that has a lot of skill besides him, so it'll be great going up against them and a great challenge for us."

Who's Hot: Vokoun isn't the only goalie rewriting his personal history. Nikolai Khabibulin has been nothing short of sensational for the Oilers thus far, owning a 3-0-2 record and 0.97 goals against average. The 38-year-old stopped 35 shots in the win over the Canucks.

"I think he sees the effort the guys are putting forth in front of him," coach Tom Renney said of Khabibulin. "We're getting great goaltending from him."

Injury Report: Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth (bruised right foot) and defenseman Mike Green (lacerated chin/swollen ankle) are both questionable. … For the Oilers, defenseman Ryan Whitney is likely to miss Thursday's game with a sprained right knee, while winger Ales Hemsky is out 1-2 weeks with a shoulder sprain.

Stat Pack:
With a win, Washington would become just the sixth team in League history to start the season with eight straight victories. The last team to achieve the feat was Buffalo, who won 10 straight to kick off the 2006-07 season.

Puck Drop: It'll be a matchup of similar styles in Edmonton, as both teams are most comfortable attacking early and often. Hall, who missed last season's loss with an injured ankle and has never played against Washington, is excited to test his speed and toughness against Ovechkin and the Caps.

"I haven't played them yet; I was hurt last year but I've heard a lot of things about their panache, their finesse and their skill," he said. "I don't know if you could say it's going to be fun to play a team like that. It might be a little bit of a different game than we're used to.

"We're going to have to use our skill that we do have, but I think hard work and defensive play is what's going to take us to the top."

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