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Caps aim to rebound against Habs

by Davis Harper
CAPITALS (24-18-2) at CANADIENS (17-20-8)


Last 10: Washington 7-3-0; Montreal 4-5-1.

Season Series: This is the first of four season meetings, with the next played on Feb. 4. Washington took three of four from Montreal in 2010-11, including the most recent – a 2-0 win at Bell Centre on March 26, 2011.

Big Story: Washington enters Montreal in the middle of a midseason playoff push, while the Canadiens are aiming to remain in the race. On Tuesday, the Caps lost momentum in a shutout loss at home to the lagging New York Islanders, while Montreal defeated the New York Rangers, one of the League's hottest teams, on Sunday.

Team Scope:

Capitals: After winning three in a row and seven straight at home, Washington defied the odds-makers with a 3-0 shutout loss to the Isles. The Capitals matched a season low with just 17 shots on goal and conceded two on the power play.

"It wasn't the goaltending that was the problem," coach Dale Hunter said. "We made mistakes on the PK, and when you make mistakes on the [penalty kill], they're going to wind up in your net."

The loss dropped Washington into the eighth and final playoff spot, and a quick turnaround against the Habs Wednesday won't give the Capitals much time to dwell on the convincing loss.

Canadiens: Montreal took a break from its free fall through the Eastern Conference with a dominating 4-1 win against the NHL-leading Rangers on Sunday. The win snapped a streak of three hard-to-swallow losses, a run that included a one-goal defeat in Boston and a shootout loss to Ottawa. The top line of Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole and David Desharnais combined for nine points against the Rangers' All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"We were rewarded for playing the way we expected our guys to play. We played our system," Canadiens interim coach Randy Cunneyworth said of his team. "I think when you play better teams, or the best teams, you're a little wary about how you're going to come out. You know that if you don't play the way you're supposed to you can be embarrassed by these good teams. I think that's what gets us back in order."

Who's Hot: Though Pacioretty has never scored against the Caps (0 goals, 3 assists), 10 of his 15 season goals have come at Bell Centre. The winger had 3 goals and 2 assists against Ottawa and New York over the weekend.

Injury Report: Mike Green will miss 4-6 weeks to undergo abdominal surgery and nurse a right groin injury. Nicklas Backstrom went on injured reserve on Jan. 4 after sustaining a head injury. … Forward Travis Moen (lower body) and second-line center Tomas Plekanec (undisclosed) are probable for Wednesday's game. Brian Gionta (right biceps surgery) and Scott Gomez (groin) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: Washington's season-low shots total Tuesday was indicative of a prolonged struggle to put the puck on net. The Capitals are 26th in the League for shots per game (27.9), and they haven't recorded more than 30 in 15 consecutive games. That trend looks like it will continue against Montreal, which despites its struggles is allowing the fifth-fewest shots per game at 28.6.

Puck Drop: "We felt like we've been playing pretty decently together. Overall as a team, we don't think we've been getting the bounces lately. It's easy to make excuses but we felt pretty good out there playing together, and tonight we got the good bounces." – Montreal's Max Pacioretty on his team's recent results
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