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Caps have another chance to damage Jets' hopes

by Ben Raby
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals missed out on an opportunity last Friday at MTS Centre to bury the Winnipeg Jets in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps will get a second chance Friday night at Verizon Center.

The eighth-place Capitals had a four-point cushion on Winnipeg for the final playoff position a week ago, but a 3-2 win by the Jets narrowed the gap and gave them hope. Seven days later, it's an almost identical situation with the teams meeting for the sixth and final time this regular season and the Caps now five points clear of 10th-place Winnipeg.

"It's a big game -- it's pretty much the game of the year," Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov said. "Everybody has to step up and we have to play how we usually do at home but now on the road."

If the Jets do in fact fall short in their bid for a playoff berth, their play on the road will largely have something to do with it. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets (10-23-4) have fewer points away from home than the Jets (11-20-4) and of Winnipeg's nine remaining games, six will be on the road.

The Capitals return home tonight after a season-long five-game road trip (2-2-1) which ended with a 2-1 shootout loss Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I think we got some points in some real tough buildings," Caps forward Troy Brouwer said. "I think a couple of our games we didn't show up as much as we would have liked to, especially for this time of the season, but five points in five games is all right.

"We're one point ahead of Buffalo in the standings right now, so we are in the playoffs at this point. But we're looking forward to [tonight's] game. It's going to be a very intense, very exciting game."

The Capitals did not hold a morning skate and it is unclear who will start in goal. Tomas Vokoun remains sidelined with a groin injury and is hopeful of a return next week.

Braden Holtby (1-1-1) has started the last two games with Michal Neuvirth (11-12-4) dressing as the backup. Ondrej Pavelec (27-5-7) will start for the 10th straight game for Winnipeg and for the 15th time in the last 16 games overall.

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Jets:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Mike Knuble
Keith Aucoin - Jay Beagle - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward/Cody Eakin

Karl Alzner - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - John Carlson

Michal Neuvirth
Braden Holtby

Notes: The Capitals recalled Eakin, a Winnipeg native, from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Friday. Should Eakin draw into the lineup, it could be in place of either Halpern or Ward.

Eakin has four goals and eight points in 29 NHL games this season. The 20-year-old has also recorded 11 goals and 25 points in 41 AHL games.

Alexander Semin missed the final 7:35 of a 5-3 win Monday in Detroit and has not practiced or played since. He is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Patrick Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Antti Miettinen
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwell - Spencer Machacek

Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Randy Jones

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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