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Caps try to rebound against struggling Canucks

by Corey Masisak

CAPITALS (7-1-0) at CANUCKS (4-5-1)


Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season. Vancouver won 4-2 at Verizon Center last season, and the Capitals haven't won in Vancouver since Feb. 14, 2001, losing here in a row.

Big Story: The Capitals are looking to bounce back after their first loss of the season, but the situation is a little more tense for the Canucks, who are off to a sluggish start after being one win from claiming the Stanley Cup in June.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington reeled off a franchise-record seven straight wins to start the season before losing 2-1 Thursday night in Edmonton. The Capitals took nine minor penalties in the game, including seven in a row at one point, and the Oilers scored twice on the power play. Washington had three extra-man chances in the third period but couldn't get the equalizer.

Tomas Vokoun has played seven straight games because of an injury to Michal Neuvirth, and he is sporting a .940 save percentage and 1.83 goals against average. Washington is the League's top scoring team as well at 3.67 goals per contest. Balance and depth on offense has been key -- 14 players have scored for the Capitals.

Canucks: It should be too early to panic in Vancouver, but that doesn't mean that some Canucks fans aren't anxious about the team's slow start. The Sedin twins are off to a fine start, combining for seven goals and 23 points, but Ryan Kesler missed the first five games and fellow second-line stalwart Mason Raymond is not close to returning from the back injury during the Cup Final.

Scoring goals hasn't been nearly as big of a problem as preventing them. Cory Schneider has started two of the past three games and appeared in all three, in part because Roberto Luongo is off to a shaky start. He's allowed at least three goals in five of his six appearances, and his .868 save percentage is a cause for concern.

Who's Hot: Nicklas Backstrom had a five-game point streak snapped in Edmonton, but he's got 10 in eight games to lead Washington and his eight assists are tied for fourth in the League. … Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo's career high in points is 37, but he could make a run at setting a new standard this season. With Christian Ehrhoff in Buffalo, Salo has delivered three goals and seven points in the first 10 games to lead the Canucks' defense corps.

Injury Report: Defensemen Tom Poti (groin) and John Erskine (shoulder) have not played yet this season for Washington, and Poti isn't expected at any point. Mike Green missed the game in Edmonton with a right ankle injury and is expected to miss this contest as well.

"God, I wish I had that crystal ball," Boudreau told reporters in Vancouver when asked about Green's return. "I'm hoping he's back by next weekend."

For Vancouver, there is no official timetable for Mason Raymond's return from a back injury. Defenseman Aaron Rome is also out with a broken finger.

Stat Pack: Green might be missing, but Washington's offensive depth on defense this season has been impressive. Karl Alzner scored the team's lone goal against the Oilers, and the Capitals' defense corps has combined for seven goals and 22 points in eight games. … While the goaltending in Vancouver could become an even bigger issue if Luongo doesn't start playing better, this isn't his first slow start with the club. Two years ago he lost four of his first six decisions and the numbers (3.90 GAA, .860 save percentage) were even worse.

Puck Drop: David Booth will see plenty of familiar faces Saturday. He arrived in Vancouver a week ago in a trade from Florida, and has plenty of experience playing against the Capitals from his days in the Southeast Division. He has scored seven goals in 27 career games against Washington, his third-most against any franchise behind Tampa Bay and Winnipeg (in Atlanta). Booth has yet to register a point in two games for the Canucks.

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