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Ducks aim for fifth straight vs. Caps

by Corey Masisak /
CAPITALS (29-18-10) at DUCKS (32-21-4)

TV -- CSN-DC (HD), FSN-West (HD)

Last 10 -- Washington 4-4-2; Anaheim 8-2-0.

Season series -- Ryan Getzlaf scored in the final minute of overtime to give the Ducks a 2-1 victory in the first meeting of the season at Verizon Center on Dec. 15.

Big story -- These are two teams that appear to be headed in opposite directions. Anaheim has won four straight contests and is part of the logjam at the top of the Pacific Division, while Washington has dropped three in a row and is in danger of losing sight of Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.

Team scope:

Capitals -- Washington's struggles to score goals and beat teams from the Western Conference have reached critical levels. The Capitals have scored 3 goals in the past 3 games in losses to San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix. The once-feared offensive club now ranks 20th in the League in goals per game (2.65) and 23rd on the power play at 16.2 percent. Alex Ovechkin's top offensive sidekicks, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, have combined to score 3 goals in the past 38 games.

Ducks -- Anaheim just completed a perfect four-game road trip and won 3 of the games without starting goaltender Jonas Hiller, who returned to complete the sweep Sunday in Edmonton. Offense has not been a problem for the Ducks -- they've scored at least 3 goals in 7 straight games. Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan have combined for 55 goals -- only Vancouver's Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin (62) and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis (60) are teammates that have combined for more.

Who's hot -- Rookie Marcus Johansson has 2 goals in the past 4 games and 5 in the past 15 for the Capitals -- that is 1 less than Ovechkin for the team lead. Ryan has 4 goals in the past 3 games and 6 in the past 7 for the Ducks. Perry has 3 goals and 10 points in the past 5 games.

Injury report -- Washington defenseman Mike Green (inner ear) is questionable after missing the team's loss against Phoenix on Monday. Defenseman Tom Poti (groin) and right wing Eric Fehr (shoulder) remain out of the lineup. Now that Hiller has returned, the Ducks have everyone available -- a rarity at this point in the season.

Stat pack -- Not only is Washington 3-7-1 against the Western Conference, but the Capitals have lost seven straight (all since Dec. 2) against the West. No other team in the NHL has collected fewer points against the opposite conference than Washington's seven (Boston is second-worst with 8). At the other end of that spectrum, Anaheim is 10-5-1 against the East -- the Ducks' 21 points is the third-most of any team against the opposite conference.

Puck drop -- The last time these two teams met, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau matched a checking line against the Anaheim trio of Perry, Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. Boudreau rarely matches lines, but it worked in that instance -- Getzlaf scored but only after the game went to 4-on-4.

Boudreau talked to the media after practice Tuesday and didn't sound like he plans to deploy such a strategy again.

"It's a lot easier to do that at home," Boudreau said. "They didn't have [Teemu] Selanne back then either. They had one [scoring] line and three hard-working lines. Now they're feeling pretty good about themselves. They've got some guys who can score and they've been scoring. It will be a lot tougher thing to do."

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