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Caps try to snap four-game skid as Avalanche visit

by Brian Hunter /
AVALANCHE (14-10-4) at CAPITALS (18-9-3)


Last 10:
Colorado 4-3-3; Washington 4-4-2

Season series:
This is the only meeting between these teams on the 2010-11 schedule. The Capitals had their way with the Avalanche in Colorado last season as Tomas Fleischmann scored a pair of goals in a 6-1 win on Dec. 15, 2009.

Big story: Fleischmann must have made an impression on the Avalanche that night almost a year ago -- after Colorado lost forward Chris Stewart for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, it pulled the trigger on a trade with Washington to get the sixth-year left wing in exchange for defenseman Scott Hannan. He'll try to do his part in extending the Capitals' recent losing streak, which sits at a season-high four games.
Team Scope:

Milan Hejduk was the story of the third period for Colorado in a 4-2 victory in Atlanta on Friday. He scored the go-ahead goal 42 seconds in, but ended up taking just three shifts. Hejduk has battled groin problems in the past and coach Joe Sacco said he would be evaluated Saturday. Fleischmann scored for the first time with his new team and Craig Anderson made 24 saves as the Avalanche snapped their own four-game losing streak.

"It's good to take the pressure off my shoulders and maybe keep going -- (Saturday) night," said Fleischmann, who had 60 goals in 284 career games for the Capitals.

In the 255-game coaching tenure of Bruce Boudreau, Washington has never lost five in a row. This is only the third time the Capitals have dropped four straight. Tomas Vokoun and the Panthers blanked them 3-0 at the Verizon Center on Thursday. The battle leading up to Saturday's game is against a difficult foe in its own right: the flu. Forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon along with defensemen Mike Green and John Carlson are all showing symptoms and questionable to face the Avalanche.

"I'm not using it as an excuse," Boudreau, who also has the flu, told the Washington Post on Friday. "I don't know if they were sick last night or if they just got it overnight. It's something that usually goes through the room when you're having a bad time, too."

Who's hot:
Matt Duchene has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Avalanche. Paul Stastny has 2 goals and 1 assist during a three-game points streak. Fleischmann has a pair of multi-point efforts in his last three games.

Injury report:
Hejduk would appear to be day-to-day for Colorado. Stewart is on injured reserve, along with defenseman Kyle Cumiskey (concussion) and forwards Peter Mueller (concussion), David Van Der Gulik (knee) and TJ Galiardi (hand). … Washington forward Tyler Sloan (groin) is on injured reserve and defenseman Jeff Schultz is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken thumb.

Stat pack:
The Avalanche avoided losing a sixth straight on the road, which would have matched the franchise record set by the Quebec Nordiques from Jan. 2-29, 1992. … Mike Hendricks' fighting major against the Panthers was the Capitals' 20th of the season in 30 games -- the same number they compiled for the entire 82-game regular season in 2009-10.

Puck drop:
While Alex Ovechkin isn't piling up the points at his traditional rate and top guns like Semin and Backstrom have struggled of late, Washington is the type of team that prides itself on generating offense from all four lines and Mike Knuble said it can't all fall to the first line.

"Nobody is more embarrassed than the players today," he said. "We've got some of our players that have flown under the radar with their play -- myself included. I'm probably the No. 1 culprit. It's not on Ovi. It's not on Nick. It is not on our top guys all the time. Other guys need to help out. We've all got to better."

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