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Wild vs. Capitals meeting of top power plays

by Sean McCullen

WILD (9-4-3) at CAPITALS (8-7-0)


Last 10: Minnesota 6-3-1; Washington 7-3-0

Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals. The teams next play in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 4. The Capitals won the most recent game, a 3-0 victory at Verizon Center on March 25, 2012.

Big story: The key to this game will be staying out of the penalty box. The Capitals and Wild are Nos. 1 and 2 in the NHL on the power play. Washington has converted on 27.9 percent of its chances, and Minnesota has scored on 25 percent of its opportunities.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota has won three games in a row and six of seven following a three-game skid in mid-October. The Wild have scored 23 goals in those six wins, including 5-1 at home against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

Zach Parise scored two goals, and with linemates Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle combined for seven points.

Coach Mike Yeo discussed the special-teams battle against Washington.

"We face a big challenge [Thursday] against that power play. Our power play has been very good this year too, so take it as a challenge that it's us against them," Yeo said following Wild practice Wednesday. "And likewise with our penalty kill. It's obviously a good opportunity to go out there and prove that we continue to go in the right direction. Certainly, it's a big challenge. First and foremost, I think we have to be focused on trying to stay out of the [penalty] box."

Capitals: Washington has won three games in a row, including 6-2 at home against the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The Capitals got Alex Ovechkin back after he missed the prior two with an upper-body injury.

Ovechkin scored two power-play goals in a five-goal second period.

The Capitals will have to take advantage of the chances they do get against a stingy Minnesota team, coach Adam Oates said following practice Wednesday.

"They don't give up very many shots. … They're a good hockey team. They're playing very well right now," Oates said. "The goaltending situation, [Josh Harding has] played great, his numbers are great."

Who's hot: Parise's two goals against the Flames give him eight on the season to go with six assists. Wild forward Jason Pominville has three goals the past three games. … Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom stepped up in Ovechkin's absence, scoring goals in the games the wing missed Friday and Saturday. Backstrom had four points (three goals) in games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers.

Injury report: Wild defenseman Keith Ballard (upper body) likely will miss the next two games with an injury sustained Tuesday. Forward Mike Rupp (knee) has not played this season but skated with the team in recent weeks. … Capitals defensemen John Erksine (knee) and Jack Hillen (knee) are on long-term injured reserve.

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