GLENDALE, Ariz. – Mike Ribeiro will see a lot of familiar faces when the Washington Capitals visit his new home in Arizona on Saturday night.
But one of Ribeiro’s new friends on the Phoenix Coyotes will be missing.
Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata, who has scored all six of his goals this season in his team’s first seven home games, sustained a lower-body injury early in Phoenix’s 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. He skated briefly at an optional workout Saturday morning but will miss his first game of the season against Alex Ovechkin and the surging Capitals.
Ribeiro was traded from Dallas to Washington in June of 2012 and had 49 points in 48 games for the Capitals in the shortened 2012-13 season. He couldn’t agree on a new deal in Washington and was snapped up by the Coyotes on the first day of free agency with a four-year, $22 million contract.
"It will be a fun game to play against my old teammates," Ribeiro said. "I was traded, I had no choice to go there. But it was great to be part of a team with players like [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Mike] Green and [Ovechkin] and live in D.C. for a year. But it was great to come here and get out in the sun a little more."
Ribeiro knows all about the dangerous Washington power play and that the Coyotes need to stay out of a special-teams battle. The Capitals’ power play and penalty kill are each ranked No. 1 in the NHL. No team has led the League in both categories over an entire season since the 1984-85 New York Islanders.
Washington has 18 power-play goals in 64 chances this season, and Ovechkin leads the team with seven.
"Obviously you have to keep them off the power play," Ribeiro said. "If you do that and push the game along you have a chance to win.
Washington has won four straight games, scoring 17 goals in that span. Ovechkin missed the first two games of the win streak with a shoulder injury, but has three goals and four points in the past two wins and leads the Capitals with 13 goals. With a tough back-to-back concluding Sunday in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, backup Michal Neuvirth will get the start in goal Saturday.
Mike Smith will make his 16th start in the first 18 games in goal for the Coyotes. Defenseman Derek Morris will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury but two players who have been sidelined with injuries, center Jeff Halpern and defenseman David Schlemko, will return to fill in for Vrbata and Morris.
Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Coyotes:
Martin Erat – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich – Marcus Johansson – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
Alexander Urbom – Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr, Dmitry Orlov
Injured: John Erskine (upper body), Jack Hillen (leg)
Rob Klinkhammer– Antoine Vermette – Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski– Martin Hanzal – Mikkel Boedker
Kyle Chipchura – Mike Ribeiro – David Moss
Paul Bissonnette – Jeff Halpern – Tim Kennedy
Zbynek Michalek – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Keith Yandle – Michael Stone
David Schlemko – Rostislav Klesla
Injured: Derek Morris (lower body), Radim Vrbata (lower body)
Scratched: David Rundblad