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Caps, Wings try to get back on track

by Davis Harper
CAPITALS (36-29-6) at RED WINGS (44-24-4)


Last 10: Washington 6-3-1; Detroit 3-6-1.

Season Series: This is the second and final meeting of the season. Way back on Oct. 22, Washington pummeled Detroit at the Verizon Center, 7-1, behind two goals each from Mathieu Perreault and Mike Green.

Big Story: Two teams typically in the Stanley Cup conversation in late March are this year struggling to retain the title of playoff competitor. The Capitals, a team currently sitting just a game above Buffalo and Winnipeg in eighth place in the East, will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they face Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are back home after a rough four-game road trip in which they went 0-3-1. Detroit has fallen to third in the ultra-competitive Central Division, and fifth overall in the West.

Team Scope:

Capitals: After using a four-game win streak to pull back into playoff position, Washington has slipped during the first three games of its current five-game road swing. It took a shootout to beat the New York Islanders on Tuesday, 5-4, and the Capitals have followed that with two consecutive losses. The first came by a 3-2 score to division rival Winnipeg, the team currently two points behind Washington for eighth place in the standings. Things got even worse Sunday against Chicago, when the Hawks scored twice in the first eight minutes while Washington didn't record a shot until the 16:02 mark of the first. Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin scored, and Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves.

"We probably showed them a little bit too much respect, not coming out with much jam in our game," Knuble said. "I look up at the scoreboard and we're down 12-0 in the shots. We can't come out like that this time for year. It can't be acceptable the room."

Red Wings: As division rivals Nashville and St. Louis continue to rack up points, it seems as though Detroit is running out of gas at a critical time. Since beating Los Angeles at home on March 9, the Wings have lost four straight while being outscored, 15-6. Coming off a 4-0 shutout loss to Anaheim on Wednesday, Detroit entered San Jose looking for any sort of momentum. When San Jose jumped out to a 2-0 lead, that looked unlikely. But Pavel Datsyuk – making his return from a minor knee surgery that kept him out a month – scored late in the first, and Valtteri Filppula sent it into overtime with a late goal. Unfortunately, San Jose outshot the Wings 5-1 in overtime, and Martin Havlat finished past Jimmy Howard at 3:23 of the extra period to win it.

"It was a better effort tonight, but not the start we wanted," defenseman Brad Stuart said. "We found a way to get back into the game and get it to overtime. We still have to get better."

Who's Hot: Ovechkin scored a beautiful individual goal on Sunday, and has three in his past three games for the Caps. His ability to produce will be vital to Washington’s playoff hopes. … Filppula has 13 points – 6 goals, 7 assists – in his last 10 games.
Injury Report: Washington starting goalie Tomas Vokoun missed Sunday's game with a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) is out indefinitely. … While Datsyuk is back, the Wings are still missing some key components. Darren Helm (lower body0 and Joey MacDonald (back spasms) are doubtful for Monday's game against Washington. Johan Franzen (back spams), Jakub Kindl (strained oblique), Jonathan Ericsson (broken left wrist) and Nicklas Lidstrom (bone bruise in right ankle) are out indefinitely.

Stat Pack: While both teams are in the top eight League-wide for wins when trailing after the first period, an early deficit has proved fatal in each team's recent skid. Washington trailed early against both Winnipeg and Chicago, while Detroit trailed heading into the first intermission in each of its last four games.

Puck Drop: Speaking about Datsyuk, coach Mike Babcock had this to say: "He looked like a player who has been out but you know he's going to get better. That was a big deal for us to have him out there and give us some swagger."

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