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Notes: Wings face another tough challenge in Capitals

Nemeth available to play after missing Flyers game; Bernier gets start against Washington

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- For a team that is fighting to escape an eight-game winless skid (0-6-2), the Washington Capitals are not the ideal opponent.

The Capitals are 18-4-5 overall and lead the Metropolitan Division with 41 points, tied with the Boston Bruins for most points.

The New York Islanders, Monday's opponent, are second with 34 points.

"The main challenge is they got really, really good players," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Saturday afternoon before the game. "They're one of the most talented teams in the league, that's why they won the Cup two years ago, that's why they've been at the top of the league for a number of years. They've got some of the best, certainly some of the best forwards in the league. They're well-coached, pretty much like every team in the league is. But they've got some really good players.

"And they're horses. Obviously (Alex) Ovechkin's a big horse, he's a hard guy to contain. You don't have many people that can physically match him. I think (Nicklas) Backstrom's out tonight, so for us that's a positive. He's one of the best, most underrated centers in the league. (Evgeny) Kuznetsov is a heck of a player. I love T.J. Oshie, the way he plays, (Tom) Wilson's a unique player up front. So the list is long that way. That presents a good challenge. That's why they win tons of games. We're going to have to make sure, like any team that has that much firepower up front, if you defend all night, it gets a little bit harder. If you have the puck a little bit more, it's more to your advantage."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "We gotta make sure we don't give up easy goals because those easy goals can be daggers."🗣 Coach Blashill | #WSHvsDET

Ovechkin is fourth in the league in goals with 17, trailing Boston's David Pastrnak's 24, Connor McDavid's 18 and Brad Marchand's 18.

The veteran forward has also had great success against the Wings, recording 27 points (16-11-27) in 26 games.

Washington defenseman John Carlson is having an incredible season, leading all blueliners in points with 36 (8-28-36).

Carolina's Dougie Hamilton is second with 26 (10-16-26).

With 99 goals scored, the Capitals are poised to become the first team to reach 100 this season.

The Boston Bruins are close behind with 96.

Blashill said Jonathan Bernier will start in goal and Calvin Pickard is backing up.

In 10 career games against Washington, Bernier is 4-6-0 with a 3.21 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.

Blashill said he did not know new goaltender Eric Comrie well but that Comrie was expected to arrive in Detroit tonight. The Wings traded defenseman Vili Saarijarvi for Comrie earlier Saturday.

Blashill also said defenseman Patrik Nemeth, who missed Friday's game in Philadelphia due to illness, is available.

LARKIN SCORELESS OF LATE: It's not just one player, it's definitely a team-wide scoring issue but top center Dylan Larkin has not recorded a point in his last seven games.

Larkin's longest drought last season was four games.

"The whole team hasn't scored, certainly he's a big piece of that," Blashill said. "I see on a nightly basis he shows up on a lot of our positive offensive clips, he's still generating offensive chances, certainly last night their line was excellent for large parts of the night in the offensive zone. It's not going in for the line right now, for Dylan and whoever has been on that line, it hasn't gone in as much. We don't get many power plays, so it's hard to create a bunch of that.

"I'm not one bit worried about Dylan's offensive production. I want to make sure that he continues to be a great defensive two-way, what I call a winning center. Sometimes when you have offensive slumps you start to get away from the defensive side to try to score points and that would be a mistake. He hasn't done that, he's done a pretty good job. But we need to make sure he stays focused on playing a good two-way game. When you do that you have the puck more and when you have the puck more you score more."

Through the first 28 games last season, Larkin had 10 goals and 14 assists.

Through the first 28 games this season, Larkin has six goals and 10 assists.

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