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Caps hope to reverse fortunes in Minnesota

by Brian Compton
CAPITALS (6-3-0) at WILD (3-3-2)

TV:  RIS, NHL Network-U.S., CSN-DC, Fox Sports-North, Fox Sports-Wisconsin.

Season Series: This is the lone meeting between the teams this season. They last faced each other on Nov. 13, 2009, when the Capitals earned a 3-1 victory at the Verizon Center. Semyon Varlamov made 29 saves in the win.

Big Story: Goaltending doesn't seem to be an issue in Washington right now, as Michael Neuvirth recorded his first career shutout in Wednesday night's 3-0 win at Carolina. Neuvirth has started eight of the Caps' first nine games as Semyon Varlamov continues to nurse a groin injury. He stopped all 29 shots he faced against the Hurricanes.

"He's been outstanding," Caps forward Matt Hendricks said of Neuvirth. "He's a young kid, but he's been playing with a lot of poise and stature. He's been phenomenal for us. It is really nice to know you have a goalie you can rely on it tough situations."

Team Scope:

Capitals: With Wednesday's win against the Hurricanes, Washington has won two games in a row and stayed within a point of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast Division. Nicklas Backstrom scored a pair of goals for the Caps before Hendricks rounded out the scoring in the third period.

"I thought that was easily our most complete game by everybody," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You get contributions from the fourth line, the penalty killing, the goaltender was great – everybody did a good job."

Wild: Minnesota enters Thursday's action trying to avoid a three-game losing streak. The skid reached two on Monday when the Wild suffered a 3-2 shootout loss against the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center. The shootout went five rounds before Michal Handzus beat Niklas Backstrom for the winner.

Minnesota ran into penalty trouble throughout the game, as it gave the Kings seven power-play chances.

"They put us on our heels," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "The first two penalty kills, I thought we did a pretty good job as far as killing the power-play opportunities, but you can't keep giving a good team opportunities."

Who's Hot: Nicklas Backstrom scored twice on two shots for Washington on Wednesday night. With the victory, Neuvirth kept pace with Montreal's Carey Price for the League lead in wins (8). … Matt Cullen and Mikko Koivu lead the Wild with 9 points apiece.

Injury Report: Capitals defenseman Tom Poti has missed back-to-back games and five of the last seven due to a lower-body injury. Marcus Johansson also missed his second straight contest with a hip flexor. … Minnesota winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard (post-concussion syndrome) is practicing but is not ready to return just yet. Cam Barker is out indefinitely with a groin injury. Josh Harding is likely done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL, and James Sheppard (knee) is out 3-4 months.

Stat Pack: In five trips to St. Paul, the Capitals have yet to beat the Wild in the latter's home rink. Washington is 0-4-1 in Minnesota. … The Wild have been held without a goal on their last eight power-play opportunities.

Puck Drop: "Boy, I was really happy to see that – for Nicky (Backstrom) to get a goal and for [Alex Ovechkin] to get an assist. You could see them pressing and you see them cheating a little bit to try and get the offense and a goal. Maybe that will get them back to playing like they normally can." -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau after Wednesday's win at Carolina

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