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Caps take 9-game win streak to Detroit

by John Kreiser
CAPITALS (41-20-10) at RED WINGS (41-20-8)


Last 10 -- Washington 9-1-0; Detroit 4-4-2

Season series -- It's the only meeting of the season between the No. 2 teams in the East and West. They haven't met since Washington won 3-2 at home on Jan. 19, 2010; this is just the third trip by the Caps to Joe Louis Arena since 2003.

Big story -- The Caps picked the right time to get hot. They've taken control of the Southeast Division and are pressing Philadelphia for the top spot in the East thanks to a winning streak that reached nine games with a 4-2 win at Montreal on Tuesday. The Wings are first in the West but have struggled to win at home -- they are 8-10-2 in their last 20 games at The Joe.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- The Caps haven't let injuries slow them down. With Washington's top two centers, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Arnott, sidelined with injuries on Tuesday, rookie Marcus Johansson stepped up with two goals in the win at Montreal.

The second goal came off an assist from new linemate Alex Ovechkin, who usually plays with Backstrom.

"(Backstrom) is out, and right now (Arnott) is out and (Brooks Laich) is playing center and he did a good job," Ovi said. "Everybody has to step up for each other and find a way to play good for each other."

Red Wings -- Coach Mike Babcock will have some lineup decisions to make -- but not for the same reasons as many coaches at this time of year. Babcock's team is getting healthy, meaning that he'll have to sit some players who may not be accustomed to being scratched. Defenseman Brian Rafalski and goaltender Chris Osgood are among those ready to return.

"Once we know who's available, we'll decide on the roster after that," Babcock said Tuesday.

Who's hot -- Ovechkin has 12 points during the nine-game winning streak. Braden Holtby, the NHL's First Star last week, has won the last five games during the streak. … Wings center Pavel Datsyuk had the winning goal in each of Detroit's last two games, giving him 10 goals and 17 points in 17 games since returning from a broken wrist.

Injury report -- Backstrom (broken thumb), Arnott (undisclosed), defensemen Tom Poti (lower body) and Mike Green (concussion) and goaltender Semyon Varlamov (knee) missed the game at Montreal, and forward Eric Fehr left the game with an upper-body injury. … Detroit is still without defenseman, Ruslan Salei; he's with his wife, who's expecting their third child. Rafalski (back spasms) is expected to return, as is forward Patrick Eaves (groin). Osgood (sports hernia surgery) was reactivated Monday.

Stat pack -- Detroit's Mike Modano has no goals and 3 assists in eight games since returning from a severe wrist injury that costs him three months. …. Eight of the Caps' nine wins during the streak have been by one goal.

Puck drop -- Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is expected to start against Ovechkin and the Caps. He still has vivid memories of the first time he faced him -- Ovi lit him up at the 2003 World Junior Championships while playing for Russia.

"It wasn't pretty,'' Howard told with a laugh when asked about Russia's 5-1 win against Team USA in Halifax, N.S. "I think he had a hat trick halfway though the second period.

"He was ridiculous in that tournament. It was actually fun to watch, to be honest with you. It's just so entertaining whenever he has the puck. Everyone's on the edge of their seat watching, waiting to see what he does, just like Pav (Datsyuk).''

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