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Coyotes aim for fifth straight vs. Caps

by Brian Compton /
CAPITALS (29-17-10) at COYOTES (29-19-9)

TV: Versus, TSN2.

Last 10: Washington 4-3-3; Phoenix 6-4-0.

Season Series: This is the only meeting between the teams this season. The last time they faced off, Washington earned a 4-2 victory against the Coyotes on Jan. 23, 2010 at the Verizon Center.

Big Story: The Capitals hit the road after an unsuccessful homestand that saw them tally just two of a possible six points in the standings. It ended in disappointing fashion Saturday afternoon, when Washington suffered a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Verizon Center.

Alex Ovechkin scored on the team's first shot just 66 seconds into the game, but the Capitals' offense -- which has been stagnant for much of the last month -- was blanked the rest of the way.

"It never happens where you just flip a switch and it goes [your way]," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It comes from the beginning of the game to the end of the game, working your rear end off. So if they're waiting for some switch to magically appear, it's not going to happen."

Team Scope:

Capitals: Desperate for some good news, Caps fans? Here's some -- your team is 6-2-2 in its last 10 road games. After facing Phoenix on Monday night, the Capitals visit Anaheim, San Jose, Buffalo and Pittsburgh before returning home to face the Rangers on Feb. 25.

Regardless, it's a critical time for the Caps, who enter Monday's action five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast Division. If the season ended today, Washington wouldn't even have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's like we're waiting for something to happen," Washington winger Mike Knuble said. "It's time to throw the switch toward the playoffs. We're entering the toughest part of the season. It's going to be a real indicator if we're a serious contender or not, quite honestly."

Coyotes: Winners of four straight games, Phoenix trails the Dallas Stars by just one point in the Pacific Division race. A national television audience will witness the Coyotes' chase for five in a row, as both Versus and TSN2 will broadcast Monday's showdown from Arena.

"We're trying to get better and we're trying to collect points," said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, who won his 350th career game Saturday night when the Coyotes earned a 3-2 shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks in the desert. "No matter what happens during a game, we've got to focus on what we do best and that will give us the best chance to win."

Who's Hot: Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is 4-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average in his last four starts. Radim Vrbata has four goals in his last three games and Taylor Pyatt has a four-game point streak (2 goals, 2 assists).
Injury Report: Caps defenseman Tom Poti is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while forward Eric Fehr (upper body) is out. … Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko is out with an upper-body injury.

Stat Pack: Washington has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its last 13 games. … Saturday's game was witnessed by 17,125 rabid fans in Phoenix, a sellout.

Puck Drop: "Some nights we've shown we're a very good hockey team. And then other nights it feels like we don't have that jump. That just falls on individuals. That's on us as players to be ready and excited for every game. You're not going to always have success, but at least put the effort in." -- Capitals forward Brooks Laich

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