Maple Leafs-Capitals Preview
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (25-22-5) at Washington Capitals (18-28-5).
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs look to get out of recent funks as they meet at the MCI Center.
The Capitals have lost four of their last five and 10 of 15. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have dropped nine of 10.
Toronto is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games against Washington, but has had difficulty stopping rookie star Alexander Ovechkin, who is expected to return after missing his first game of the season with a groin injury.
Ovechkin has four goals in two games against the Maple Leafs, the most he has scored against one team this season. On Wednesday, Ovechkin was named league player and rookie of the month, the first since goaltender Jim Carey of the Capitals took both honors in March 1995.
Ovechkin had 11 goals and 10 assists in 14 games in January, registering points in all but two games.
Without Ovechkin and second-leading scorer Danius Zubrus (upper body injury), the Capitals lost Wednesday to the New York Islanders 5-3.
Brian Willsie and Matt Petinger each had a goal and an assist in the loss. Willsie has a goal and two assists in his last two games while Pettinger has a goal and three assists in his last three.
"This is part of the progression of being a good team, having these pieces slide together," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said of his team's injuries.
Toronto got a big lift Tuesday with the return of high-scoring defenseman Bryan McCabe, but it wasn't enough as the Leafs lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
McCabe leads the Maple Leafs with 49 points and returned to their lineup on Tuesday after missing nine games with a groin injury. Toronto was 1-7-1 without McCabe, who was held pointless in his return.
McCabe has four goals and four assists in his last six games against Washington.
Chad Kilger scored against the Lightning, giving him two goals and two assists in a career-high four-game points streak. Darcy Tucker scored his team-leading 21st goal on the power play and has a goal in three straight games.
Goalie Ed Belfour, who made 35 saves against the Lightning, is 1-6-1 in his last nine starts with a 3.92 GAA and .872 save percentage. He has seven wins and a tie with a 2.46 GAA in his last eight starts against the Capitals dating back to his last loss against them on Dec. 28, 2001.
STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 55 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Northeast Division. Capitals - 41 points, 5th place, 37 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Tucker, 21 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 36 assists; McCabe, 49 points; Ken Klee, 64 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 34 goals, 31 assists and 65 points; Brendan Witt, 125 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 1): Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.5 percent (68 for 332), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (267 for 331), 22nd. Capitals - Power play: 14.2 percent (44 for 310), 28th. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (283 for 357), 27th.
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (19-17-3, 0 SO, 3.36 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (6-5-2, 1, 2.79). Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (14-20-5, 0, 3.45); Brent Johnson (4-7-0, 0, 4.01).
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 8; Maple Leafs 6-4. At Toronto, McCabe scored one of the Leafs' four third-period goals and Belfour finished with 26 saves. Ovechkin scored twice in the first period for the Caps.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 10-13-3 on the road; Capitals - 12-12-4 at home.