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Slumping Capitals return home to face Coyotes

by Brian Hunter
COYOTES (10-5-3) at CAPITALS (10-7-1)


Last 10:
Phoenix 7-2-1; Washington 3-6-1

Season Series:
This is the only meeting of the season between these cross-conference opponents. Ray Whitney had the go-ahead power-play goal and set up a score by Martin Hanzal as the Coyotes beat the Capitals 3-2 in Phoenix when they last met on Feb. 14.

Big Story:
The Capitals come in looking to stop the bleeding, as a three-game losing streak has dropped them into second place in the Southeast Division behind the surprising Panthers. Even though we're not yet to Thanksgiving, this isn't what fans expected to see from a team that, for all its struggles in the postseason the past several years, has usually established itself early in the division and forced its rivals to try to play catch-up the rest of the way.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: The Pacific Division is once again shaping up to be among the most competitive in the NHL, and Phoenix is doing its part to stay right in the mix for the top spot. The Coyotes finish up a five-game road trip looking for their fourth win after doubling up the Sabres 4-2 on Saturday behind a pair of goals from Radim Vrbata and a rare score by tough guy and Twitter sensation Paul Bissonnette. A healthy scratch the previous seven games, he got the goal playing in front of his mother and grandparents.

"It feels good ... especially to share it with family. It's a pretty special thing," Bissonnette said. "I had a lot of friends here, too. I'm just happy the boys battled hard and ended up pulling out the win."

Capitals: Rock bottom may have arrived for Washington in the form of Saturday's 7-1 rout in Toronto -- at least the Capitals hope it doesn't get any worse. Brooks Laich scored 2:30 into the first period to answer a quick goal by Tim Connolly and tie the game, but the Maple Leafs got another late in the period and then poured it on with four more in the second to chase Tomas Vokoun.

"They came out hard and they were buzzing and they put a lot of pressure on you in your own zone to make plays to get out," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "We didn't handle it well in the first period. We were 1-1 going into the last minute of the period, and then they scored that goal on the 3-on-2. But that's going to happen in games. You have to be resilient enough to put that behind you and come back in the second period and have a good period. We just didn't do it."

Who's Hot: Vrbata's third two-goal game of the season gave him the Coyotes' lead with 8 goals and tied him with Whitney in scoring with 15 points. Mike Smith made 43 saves Saturday, his second game in a row with at least 40 saves and the ninth time in 10 games he's made more than 30. He's 7-1-2 during that stretch.

Injury Report: Phoenix has been without forward Daymond Langkow on this road trip due to personal matters, while defenseman Michal Rozsival (head) remains on injured reserve. ... Washington defenseman Mike Green (groin) is day-to-day, while defenseman Tom Poti (groin) and forward Jay Beagle (concussion) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: Shane Doan opened the scoring for the Coyotes on Saturday, picking up the 750th point of his career. ... The Capitals have scored just one goal in each of their last three games, the first time that's happened since Dec. 27-31, 2003.

Puck Drop:
Bissonnette's goal was the fifth of his career in 111 NHL games for Phoenix and Pittsburgh. In regards to his Twitter feed, @BizNasty2point0 said after the game, "It's probably blowing up big time."

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