COYOTES (29-17-5) at CAPITALS (32-12-6)
Phoenix 4-4-2; Washington 8-2-0
This is the only meeting between the teams this season. In their only meeting last season, Mikkel Boedker
and Peter Mueller each scored early in the third period to rally the Coyotes to a 2-1 win at Jobing.com Arena.
How do the Coyotes slow the juggernaut Capitals? Washington has won five in a row, with contributions coming from all over the lineup.
Scottie Upshall is making Coyotes GM Don Maloney look smarter by the day. Upshall's natural hat trick in Thursday's 4-2 defeat of Nashville makes the deal that brought Upshall to Philadelphia -- for Daniel Carcillo and a draft pick -- look more and more like a steal.
The hat trick gave Upshall a career-best 17 goals, and his energy and enthusiasm this season is a big part of why the Coyotes are in line to end an eight-year playoff drought.
"He's a young player that continues to forge ahead," coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "He plays the game with such enthusiasm, and he's kind of a byproduct on who our group is."
Coach Bruce Boudreau said the hockey season is full of peaks and valleys, and right now his team is enjoying the fun that comes with being high up on a peak.
"We talk about the excitement of winning," he said Friday. "When you have everybody committed to wanting to win, it's a lot easier. We want them, when they come to the rink, to be excited about coming to the rink, not thinking they have a job to do. You see them laughing and playing on the ice, I think so far it's working."
The key to recent strong surge, Boudreau said, is getting contributions from all 18 skaters on a nightly basis.
"If there's anything I really like, it's everyone is contributing," he said. "We're not relying on Alex (Ovechkin) at 25 minutes a night, and (Alexander) Semin at 25 minutes a night. They've been kept to 20 and 19 and 16 minutes a game because everyone else is flourishing. There's no fatigue that's going to be setting in."
Who's hot --
Coyotes captain Shane Doan
has 6 points during his current three-game point streak. … Ovechkin, who now wears the "C" for the Capitals, has 6 goals and 18 points during a current eight-game scoring streak.
Injury report --
Coyotes forward Daniel Winnik (upper-body injury) sat out Thursday's game against Nashville, but is on the trip to Washington and could play Saturday.
Boudreau said defensemen Mike Green
and John Erskine
, both of whom missed Thursday's game against Pittsburgh due to injury, skated Friday and were expected to play Saturday, along with blueliner Brian Pothier, who could be activated from injured reserve. That would give the Capitals eight healthy defensemen, however.
Stat pack --
During the Caps' five-game win streak, they've scored the game's first goal just once. Not that it seems to matter -- the Caps are a League-best 11-6-2 when giving up the game's first goal.
"I don't know if it says anything about the guys other than they have confidence they can come back," Boudreau said. "We believe we're going to score two or three goals a game, which we've done. If we do that, one goal shouldn't bother you, two goals shouldn't bother you."
Puck drop --
If Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov can beat the Caps, it'll be his 27th win of the season, which would be one more win than he's had each of the last two seasons with the Coyotes. He's already posted a career-best five shutouts, and his 2.31 goals-against average is more than half a goal better than last season.