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Habs, Caps meet for first time since playoffs

by Tal Pinchevsky /
CANADIENS (20-14-2) at CAPITALS (22-12-5)


Last 10 – Montreal 4-6-0; Washington 3-4-3.

Season series – This is the first meeting of the season between these teams and the first since the Canadiens eliminated the top-seeded Capitals in the first round of last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. Last season, the teams split their four regular-season games.

Big story – After both teams enjoyed a hot start to the season, their game in Washington sees the Habs and Caps going in opposite directions. After losing eight straight, the Caps have won three of four, their only loss coming in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose 50 points lead the League. Montreal, on the other hand, has lost six of eight and has gone 1-3 so far on its season-long seven-game road trip.

Team Scope:

Canadiens – A troublesome stretch was magnified considerably on Sunday, when the Habs lost 4-1 to the Islanders. With only 3,136 in attendance at Nassau Coliseum due to a Northeastern blizzard, Montreal lost in regulation on Long Island for the first time since Feb. 24, 2007.

"We gave them a couple of easy breaks . It's discouraging," Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said. "There are some areas we need to be better, but sometimes it's just making the little bounces go your way.

Capitals — Washington’s 3-2 victory in Carolina on Sunday was an important division win for the Caps, who are battling Atlanta and Tampa Bay for top spot in the Southeast division. But it may have been an even bigger breakout for captain Alex Ovechkin, whose game-winning goal was his first marker in nine games. His nifty move around Carolina’s Jamie McBain also allowed David Steckel to score, giving the Russian superstar a two-point night.

"He's been working so hard, and not getting bounces," defenseman Mike Green said of Ovechkin after the game. "It was big for him to get one today."

Who's hot – With an assist against the Isles, Mike Cammalleri has 12 points in his last 12 games. … Despite his goalless drought, Ovechkin has still managed to register 15 points in his last 16 games. Brooks Laich is riding his own four-game point streak.

Injury report – Forward Travis Moen missed Sunday's game with the flu, but defenseman Andrei Markov is Montreal’s only long-term injury. Rookie defenseman PK Subban was a healthy scratch for Montreal’s last two games and is expected back in the lineup in Washington. … The Capitals' list of injuries seems to be getting longer with every game. Mathieu Perreault sustained a broken nose against Carolina and is doubtful against Montreal, as is defenseman Tom Poti. Eric Fehr has taken leave due to a death in the family and is questionable while Jeff Schultz (thumb), D.J. King (undisclosed), Boyd Gordon (lower body), and Matt Bradley (finger) are all on IR.

Stat pack – You'd think the Habs would be better-prepared for their current seven-game December road trip. They went on an almost-identical trip last season, going 6-1-0. That trip even included a game on Long Island in which attendance was limited due to a sudden snowstorm.

Puck drop – Their home game against Montreal will be the Caps' last game of 2010 and their last game before their much-anticipated rematch with the Pens in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. With all that on their plate this week, the Caps feel they’re finally hitting their stride.

"I think we're getting more and more confident," Green said after the win in Carolina. "We didn't stray mentally from what we did well against Pittsburgh [on Dec. 23rd]. It felt like there were maybe three or four minutes where we had a lapse, but other than that we played strong."

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