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Ovi heating up as Capitals welcome in Flyers

by Adam Kimelman
FLYERS (18-7-3) at CAPITALS (15-12-1)


Last 10:
Philadelphia 7-3-0; Washington 5-5-0

Season series: This is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. On Oct. 20, the Caps scored three times in a 2:25 span early in the third period to turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage en route to a 5-2 victory in Philadelphia.

Big Story: Can the Flyers keep up their winning ways without top defenseman Chris Pronger and top forward Claude Giroux?

Team Scope:

With Claude Giroux out indefinitely with a concussion, someone will have to slide into the role left open by the League's leading scorer.

When Giroux was hurt Saturday, rookie Sean Couturier went into Giroux's spot between Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell. He was there Monday at practice, and likely will be there to start Tuesday's game.

Couturier, the eighth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft, has played mostly on the fourth line, and while he doesn't have a point in 14 games, he's played a major role in the Flyers' penalty killing, unit, which ranks 17th in the League but has allowed one power-play or fewer in seven of the last eight games.

"He's an integral part of our team," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Sean has done a terrific job, a real nice job for us, and he's counted on in many ways."

Capitals: Defenseman Mike Green visited a specialist Monday, presumably to find an answer to the right groin muscle injury that has kept him out for the last 14 games.

Coach Dale Hunter wouldn't give specifics, but said Green likely will rejoin the team for its upcoming road trip, which starts Thursday in Winnipeg.

"It's day-to-day and he's getting better," Hunter told the Washington Post. "It just takes time. I think every player's been through it. It's a little frustrating because you can't play -- it just takes time and it heals."

It was thought Green was close to a return earlier this month, but he hasn't skated since Dec. 8, and told reporters that day there was no timetable for his return.

Green has missed 20 of the last 21 games with an ankle injury and now the groin strain.

Who's Hot: Flyers forward Danny Briere has 7 points in his last five games, including goals in two straight. … After totaling just 4 points in 10 games, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin has 3 points in his last four games.

Injury Report: Besides Giroux, the Flyers also are without forward Braydon Schenn (mild concussion) and defensemen Pronger (concussion-like symptoms), Andreas Lilja (high ankle sprain) and Erik Gustafsson (wrist). … Besides Green, the Capitals are missing forwards Jay Beagle (concussion) and Matt Hendricks (knee).

Stat Pack:
If Ovechkin is starting to heat up and get back to being the top-level offensive player of years past, a visit from the Flyers only will help. In 23 regular-season games against Philadelphia, he has 22 goals and 37 points.

Puck Drop:
In the six games since Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach, Ovechkin has played more than 20 minutes three times, all of them in the last four games. In his first 22 games, he played that much just five times.

"More ice, more smiles," Ovechkin told the Washington Post.

More production, too, as Ovechkin has a goal and 3 assists in that time. He's averaging 4.2 shots per game since Hunter took over, including 15 shots in his last two games.

Prior to Hunter's arrival, Ovechkin was averaging just 3.6 shots per game.

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