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Fighting injuries, Habs, Caps set to battle each other

by Magalie Lafreni?re /
CAPITALS (14-5-6) at CANADIENS (12-12-1)

Last 10 -- Washington 6-2-2; Montreal 5-4-1

Season series -- The Canadiens and the Capitals face each other for the second time this season, having played in Washington just eight days ago. The Habs edged the Caps, 3-2, with Mike Cammalleri picking up the game-winner on the power play. The Capitals had poured it on in the third period, outshooting the Canadiens 16-4, but Carey Price finished the night with 32 saves and kept Alex Ovechkin off the scoreboard.

Big story -- Both teams have a lengthy injury list that has led to string of AHL call-ups. In fact, each lost players in their last game against one another; Montreal's Scott Gomez suffered a groin injury and Caps defenseman Tom Poti went down with an upper-body injury. Washington called up Quebec City native Alexandre Giroux and defenseman Karl Alzner, while right winger James Wyman and left wing Sergei Kostitsyn are Montreal's most recent call-ups. Washington will also be looking to extract revenge for its loss to the Habs in D.C. a week ago.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- The Capitals managed to hold off the Sabres on Wednesday and grab a 2-0 victory. Ovechkin tallied the eventual game-winner in the first period before being ejected for running Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta into the boards at 3:38 of the third. Facing a five-minute penalty-kill and without Ovechkin, the Caps, who have struggled to hold leads in their third, were severely tested by the Sabres. Semyon Varlamov came away with 25 saves and his first regular-season NHL shutout.

"We didn't play our best game last game and we had two good periods and one bad one," right wing Matt Bradley said. "They're (Canadiens) a good team and we're going to have to be firing on all cylinders to beat them."

Canadiens -- It's been a big week for Montreal, which began Monday with the Habs trading away Quebec native Guillaume Latendresse to the Wild for Franco-Ontarian Benoit Pouliot. That was followed by a 5-3 win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, a 3-1 loss to the Penguins on Wednesday and a practice on Friday where emotions were running quite high. Offensively, Montreal had one its poorest games of the season against Pittsburgh with just 19 shots on goal. Down three goals going into the third period, Max Pacioretty finally solved Marc-André Fleury with an assist from Sergei Kostitsyn.
Tension either from the loss to the Pens, the numerous injuries, or a demand for more intensity could have played a part in an incident in Friday's practice where a shoving match occurred between Cammalleri and defenseman Josh Gorges. The teammates laughed it off quickly with the help of peacekeeper Maxim Lapierre and together the two of them led the post-practice stretch.

"I don't know who started it, but I remember I called him ugly and he got pretty upset, so he called me fat. Something like that," joked Gorges. "Seriously though, we talked about having an intense practice and that's the kind of intensity we need to have in our next game."

Who's hot --
Besides the obvious strengths of Ovechkin, defenseman Mike Green has picked up at least a point in his last six games and Varlamov has allowed fewer than two goals in five of his last six starts. Habs center Tomas Plekanec had a four-game point streak snapped in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but leads the Canadiens with 24 points. Price has been on the ball the last few weeks, making an average of 34 saves in his last six games.

Injury report -- Shaone Morrisonn (upper-body injury) traveled with the Caps to Montreal, but is questionable for Saturday, while Washington is also without forwards Mike Knuble (broken finger), Alexander Semin (wrist), Boyd Gordon (back), Quintin Laing (broken jaw) and defenseman Poti (upper-body injury).

The Canadiens do have some good news on the injury front. Defenseman Andrei Markov (severed ankle tendons) skated for 10 minutes on Thursday and is looking at an earlier than expected January return. Matt D'Agostini practiced with his teammates for the first time since he was hit by Chicago's Andrew Ladd. The concussion he suffered from the hit resolved itself quickly, but he also suffered a knee injury from the collision. Montreal remains without Brian Gionta (broken left foot), new acquisition Pouliot (hand) and Hal Gill (hairline fracture of the foot). Andrei Kostitsyn (foot) and Scott Gomez (lower body) are questionable for Saturday, while Jaroslav Spacek (lower body) is expected to make his return. Georges Laraque is serving the third of a five-game suspension.

Stat pack --
The Caps are 8-0-3 when Ovechkin has scored.

Puck drop --
With the injuries on both squads, it could come down to which team's AHL call-ups want to stay with the big club the most and show it on the ice.

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