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Hockey Night in Canada pits Leafs vs. Capitals

by Dan Rosen /
CAPITALS (26-14-8) at MAPLE LEAFS (19-22-5)


Last 10 --
Washington 5-2-3; Toronto 6-3-1

Season series --
Third of four meetings between the clubs this season. Both games have been decided in a shootout by a 5-4 margin. Washington won on Nov. 3 and Toronto came back to beat the Caps on Dec. 6.

Big story -- This is the first time the Caps and Maple Leafs have met since Toronto's remarkable third-period comeback from a 4-1 deficit. Toronto scored twice in the final two-and-a-half minutes to send the game into overtime. Mikhail Grabovski clinched it with the shootout winner. The only other time Washington played on Hockey Night in Canada this season it won 7-2 in Calgary.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- What an amazing feeling it must have been for the Caps on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum. For the first time in nine games they built a lead after the first period. It was enough to let them finally play their new shutdown style with a couple of goals in their back pocket. Even better, they got two goals from their new top line, including Nicklas Backstrom's first in 22 games. Jason Chimera, who is playing up with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, also scored. Braden Holtby, the team's third goalie on the depth chart, made 24 saves for the win. Washington didn't practice Friday so it's unclear if Semyon Varlamov will be back in the net Saturday at Air Canada Centre or if Holtby will get his second consecutive start.

"People will complain that we only got two goals and we didn't go for offense anyway, but I thought it was a great shutdown third period," coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters following Thursday's win. "I think when you kill six penalties and you keep doing the right things of getting it deep, getting it deep and all of those things, you end up successful. You get one or two good saves and you're going to be good. I'm really proud of the way we held the fort."

Maple Leafs --
Toronto is coming off an impressive 5-2 win over Anaheim on Thursday night, its first win in four games. It was a good answer to a lackluster performance the night before at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers blasted the Maple Leafs, 7-0. Grabovski scored a pair of goals after finishing Wednesday's game with a minus-3 rating. Clarke MacArthur had a goal and 2 assists after he was a minus-2 in New York. Forward Mike Brown has served out his three-game suspension for his lateral hit to the head of Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski on Jan. 14 and is eligible to return Saturday.

"We played with pride,'' MacArthur told reporters Thursday night. "It's hard to sleep after a game like that (in New York). We all have better in here. It's not fair to the goalies, it's not fair to anybody to come out and leave guys hung out to dry like we did.''

Who's hot --
Ovechkin has a goal and 2 assists in the last two games. He has twice as many assists this season (32) as he has goals (16). Chimera is on a three-game point streak with 2 goals and 1 assist.

Injury report --
The Capitals are still without Alexander Semin (lower body), Eric Fehr (shoulder), Matt Bradley (broken finger) and Michal Neuvirth (lower body). … Toronto might have to play without enforcer Colton Orr, who was injured during a fight with George Parros on Thursday and didn't practice Friday. Fredrik Sjostrom has missed four straight games with a leg injury.

Stat pack --
Courtesy of Mike Vogel from Of the 426 minutes and 52 seconds of hockey the Capitals played in their seven games prior to Thursday's on Long Island they held a lead for just 21 minutes and 18 seconds. Of course, Chimera scored just 3:41 into the first period against the Islanders, so the Caps led for the final 56 minutes and 19 seconds of that game.

Puck drop --
Chimera is getting the chance to play with two world-class forwards in Backstrom and Ovechkin. He's clearly loving it:

"It's fun playing with those guys, you get the opportunity to shoot the puck in good spots," Chimera told the Washington Post. "They back so many guys off and you find yourself with more time than you usually do on other lines. I think the main thing with me is, I can't change my game. I've got to play the same way -- use my speed. I think I can back some guys off of them as well."

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