CAPITALS (10-6-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (10-7-2)
TV: CBC, CSN-MA
Washington 3-6-1; Toronto 4-5-1
This is the first meeting of the season. The Capitals won three of four against the Maple Leafs last season, but three of the four contests went to a shootout.
Two teams going in the wrong direction after great starts meet up for a Hockey Night in Canada clash.
The Capitals are backsliding, and a trip to face similarly struggling Winnipeg didn’t change the momentum Thursday night. Washington has had trouble in tight games during the third period at times this season, but the Jets blew it open against the Capitals in the second period on Thursday with three goals in less than four minutes.
Washington did score first in this game, but the Capitals yielded a lead for the fifth time in their past six losses.
"It was just not a good effort by us," Karl Alzner
told Katie Carrera of the Washington Post. "You can't do that. We're supposed to beat a team like this -- one that's below .500. We're not doing that right now."
Sixteen days ago the Maple Leafs were atop the Eastern Conference with 19 points, but losses in five of the past six have muted the early-season optimism in Toronto. Not only have the Leafs slid back to fifth place, they have been outscored 26-8 in the past six games.
Toronto clearly misses James Reimer
, who started the year 4-0-1 with a 2.58 goals against average and .910 save percentage. Jonas Gustavsson
has the worst GAA (3.78) and second-worst save percentage (.878) of the 45 qualified goaltenders in the League this season. Rookie Ben Scrivens
has had a couple of solid games, but has been inconsistent as well.
The Capitals have scored only four goals in the past three games, but Troy Brouwer
has two of them. … Phil Kessel
isn't quite as hot as he had been, but he does have three of Toronto's eight goals in the past five games -- though he was held off the score sheet and was a minus-4 Thursday against Nashville.
Washington continues to be without Mike Green
, who is out with a groin injury. The Capitals haven't lost this season with Green in the lineup (8-0). Jay Beagle
(concussion) and Tom Poti
(groin) are also out. … Reimer is the key injury for the Leafs, but he's not alone in the trainer’s room these days. Two-thirds of Toronto's second line -- Mikhail Grabovsky (leg) and Clarke MacArthur
(upper body) -- are not expected to play against the Capitals. Colby Armstrong
(ankle) has been out since mid-October, while Matthew Lombardi (upper body) and Mike Komisarek
(upper body) were hurt against the Predators and are questionable for Saturday night.
Washington hasn't scored a power-play goal in five games (0-for-17). Toronto might be just the team to face to fix that problem. The Maple Leafs are 17th in times shorthanded, but they are tied for last in power-play goals allowed (18). Toronto has killed off 74.3 percent of its opponents' power plays, which is 29th in the League.
Puck Drop: Alex Ovechkin
has not been the same offensive force since the start of the 2010-11 season, but don't bet against a big night from him Saturday. Ovechkin always seems to play well on Hockey Night in Canada and particularly at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. He has 14 goals in 12 career games at the ACC, including four in two games last season. It was the only road building he scored more than twice in during the 2010-11 campaign.
Ovechkin has 1 point -- a goal -- in the past five games.
"You know what, I don't want to talk about Alex tonight," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the loss Thursday. "Everywhere we go, people ask me the same question about Alex. I just don't feel like talking about him tonight."