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Flyers aim to deny Capitals home-and-home sweep

by Adam Kimelman

CAPITALS (18-12-3) at FLYERS (14-15-4)


Last 10: Washington 6-2-2; Philadelphia 4-4-2

Season series: When the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals play Tuesday it will be for the second time in three days and the third time in six weeks. Washington won the first two games, 7-0 on Nov. 1 in Philadelphia and 5-4 in a shootout Sunday in Washington.

Big story: Alex Ovechkin continues his quest for 50 goals in 50 games with a game Tuesday against the Flyers, a team he's done particularly well against in his career.

He scored his 27th goal of the season Sunday when they played, giving him 25 in 30 career regular-season games against Philadelphia.

He also stays within range of scoring 50 in the Capitals' first 50 games. Ovechkin has 27 in 31 games. He's missed two games due to injury, giving him 17 games to score 23 goals. While that might sound like an overwhelming amount, Ovechkin did score 22 goals in his final 21 regular-season games last season.

Team scope:

Capitals: Washington coach Adam Oates is facing down a bit of a math problem right now -- he's trying to divide three goalies into two nets.

Oates told reporters in Washington on Monday that the team will bring three goalies to Philadelphia: Braden Holtby, Michael Neuvirth and Philipp Grubauer.

Neuvirth last played Nov. 22 and has been on injured reserve since Nov. 29 due to a lower-body injury, but is back practicing with the team. Grubauer was recalled from the American Hockey League on Nov. 30 and made his NHL debut Dec. 3. He's played well enough to start the past four games, going 3-0-1 while allowing nine goals on 134 shots.

Oates said Holtby "has been our No. 1 guy and he is our No. 1 guy," and Holtby will be the guy between the pipes Tuesday.

As far as keeping three goalies, Oates said that was something that would be discussed between himself, general manager George McPhee and goaltending coach Olie Kolzig. However, he did say Grubauer's play was making their decision a difficult one.

"It's a tough call," Oates said. "He [Grubauer] has been great, but it's been a short window and let's put it in perspective. It's given [Holtby] a chance to rest a little and be ready for this week and [Neuvirth] a chance to heal. He's really helped us out. By doing that he's shown some really good things in this League."

Flyers: Philadelphia center Vincent Lecavalier was on the ice Monday for a light skate but said he's not any closer to making his return to the Flyers' lineup.

Lecavalier hasn't played since Nov. 22 due to back spasms, and the Flyers announced Dec. 8 he had a non-displaced fracture in his lower back, at the site of the spasms. At the time the Flyers hoped 3-4 weeks of additional rest would allow in the injury to heal. Lecavalier told reporters in Philadelphia on Monday that he was making progress, but it's a slow process that neither he nor the club has any intention of rushing.

"He's able to do some rehabilitation, but until the spasm goes away completely he's kind of limited in what he can do," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "The spasms have gotten smaller. They're more around the fracture side now. Until that goes away completely he's sort of limited."

Lecavalier said he hoped to skate again Tuesday, but that depended on how his back felt after the session Monday.

Who's hot: While Ovechkin gets the headlines for the Capitals, linemate Nicklas Backstrom has been pretty good too -- he has nine points in his past three games. … Flyers captain Claude Giroux has back-to-back multi-point games for the first time this season, and has five points in his past three games.

Injury report: The Capitals are missing defenseman Jack Hillen (leg), forwards Brooks Laich (groin), Michael Latta (lower body) and Mikhail Grabovski (flu) and Neuvirth (lower body). … Lecavalier is the Flyers' only injured player.


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