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Star power present as Caps, Wings meet @NHLdotcom

CAPITALS (2-1-1) at RED WINGS (1-2-0)

Season series: This is the first of two meetings this season. In 2008-09, these teams met once, a 4-2 home win for the Capitals. Alexander Ovechkin scored twice, and Mike Green and Viktor Kozlov added a goal apiece. Goaltender Jose Theodore stopped 27 of 29 shots for the victory. Johan Franzen and Ville Leino scored for Detroit, and goaltender Ty Conklin took the loss.

Big story: This is the marquee matchup of Saturday night -- the high-flying Capitals, led by Alexander Ovechkin, visiting the dominant Red Wings, Stanley Cup finalists each of the last two seasons. The star power in this contest is of the mega-watt variety, though one key name will be missing: Franzen is out at least four months with a torn ACL in his left knee, it was announced Friday.

This is the 97th all-time meeting between these clubs, and Detroit holds a 43-37-16-0 advantage, outscoring the Capitals 318-313.

Team scope:

Capitals: Washington has on its roster the top three scorers in the League, and all three comprise the No. 1 line. Nicklas Backstrom is tops with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists), followed by Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, each with 5 goals and 9 points. Washington is also getting great production from the No. 2 line of Brooks Laich (3-4-7), Brendan Morrison (2-1-3) and Mike Knuble (1-0-1).

Neither goaltender -- Jose Theodore or Semyon Varlamov -- has taken a firm grip on the No. 1 job, though coach Bruce Boudreau calls the veteran Theodore the primary starter. Through four games each has made at least two appearances. After trading starts in the first two games (both wins), Varlamov (1-0-0, 5.11 GAA) made a second consecutive start on Oct. 6 and was bombed in Philadelphia (4 goals on 25 shots in 34 minutes) and pulled in the second period in favor of Theodore. Last Thursday, Theodore (1-1-1, 2.84 GAA) received the start in game No. 4 but gave up two third-period goals in a 4-3 home loss against the Rangers. Washington's 3.75 goals-against per game is 25th in the League.

Red Wings: It certainly hasn't been an easy start to the season for the two-time Stanley Cup finalists. After two disappointing losses in Stockholm to St. Louis, Detroit rebounded to defeat division rival Chicago 3-2 in its home-opener last Thursday.

None of the Red Wings yet have multiple goals, and Kirk Maltby (1-2) and Henrik Zetterberg (0-3) are tied for the team lead with 3 points apiece.

Chris Osgood, in his 16th season, is 10 wins away from becoming the 10th goaltender in League history to reach 400 career regular season victories. Since rejoining the Red Wings prior to the 2005-06 season, Osgood is 85-28-18 in regular-season play and 29-12 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Who's hot: Backstrom and Semin each have four consecutive multiple-point games to start the season. Backstrom has two 2-point contests and two 3-point performances. In his last game, he scored his first 2 goals of the season in a loss against the Rangers. Semin has three 2-point games and one 3-point contest. He is also currently riding a three-game goal streak.

Dan Cleary and Niklas Kronwall were the only Red Wings to record a point in both games against the Blues in Sweden, but each had his point streak snapped last Thursday against Chicago.

Injury report: The Capitals are without center Tomas Fleischmann (blood clot in leg), who is on injured reserve. For the Red Wings, Franzen joins defenseman Andreas Lilja (concussion) and center Darren Helm (shoulder) on injured reserve.

Stat pack: Backstrom is the first player with 10 points in his team's first four games since Martin Havlat accomplished the feat in 2006-07 with Chicago.

Before being held scoreless last Thursday, Ovechkin became the third player in NHL history to record 3 or more points in his team's first three games of the season. He joined Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur of the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens and Peter Stastny of the 1982-83 Quebec Nordiques.

Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom is two points shy of becoming the eighth defenseman in League history to reach 1,000, joining Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Phil Housley, Larry Murphy, Denis Potvin and Brian Leetch.

Puck drop: The veteran Red Wings are so battle-tested that nothing should really faze them, but playing Washington is a measuring stick-type game. At home, Babcock gets the last line change so look for the Detroit coach try and keep a checking line or at least a physical defense pairing on the ice against the Ovechkin line. This would also be a good time for Wings star Pavel Datsyuk (1 assist, minus-1) to get untracked.

-- Rocky Bonanno,




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