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Notes: Wings expect tough challenge from Capitals

Alex Ovechkin is tied for fourth in the league in goals with eight

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - Jimmy Howard knows he has his work cut out for him.

The Washington Capitals are 10-4-2 and currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with 22 points.

"They're a deep team and had elite talent all the way through the lineup," Howard said. "So it's going to take a combined effort from all of us for 60 minutes."

In their last game, the Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-1.

In eight career starts against the Capitals, Howard is 3-1-3 with a 3.15 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.

Howard knows that if the puck ends up on Alex Ovechkin's stick, it's heading his way.

"He's a shoot-first guy type of player," Howard said. "Ninety-five percent of the time when he has the puck it's coming at you so you got to be ready for it because he'll let it go from anywhere on the ice."

Ovechkin is tied for fourth in the league in goals with eight and has 12 points overall.

"He's such a big body," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's not as physical as he once was but he's still physical. He's got that big, big shot. Now you see guys in the league who are either real fast or might have the shot but a little thinner body and not necessarily as physical. He's one of those guys that it's almost you don't want to wake him up. I don't mean wake him up like he's not ready to play but sometimes if you get physical with him, his game turns up another notch. He's one of best players in the league for a long time. Most of those types of players have pretty unique physical skill sets."

While Ovechkin gets the bulk of the attention, Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said he's not the only talented Washington player.

"A key to everything is (Nicklas) Backstrom has been hot lately, he's the motor on that team," Zetterberg said. "There's a few other good centermen that really want to dish the puck. We got to minimize their space and time and also they got a pretty good goaltender there too. But where we are now, we just got to focus on what we do. We have to play the way we want. If we do that we got a better chance of winning this."

Backstrom had two goals and three assists against the Penguins.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is 8-3-0-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

The Wings have lost their last two games and are 3-6-1 in their last 10.

It won't be easy to snap their skid against the Capitals, who are 5-2-0 at home.

"That team, they've been built here for the last few years here to try to win the Stanley Cup," Steve Ott said. "Last year they didn't get the job done obviously, but they ran away from the league in the regular season. What Ovi brings on that power play is something special. But I think there's a lot of guys that are threats. Backstrom is one of the best passers in the league, obviously Holtby is one of the top end goaltenders, you've got T,J. Oshie. You go down the list, they've got a lot of high-end guys, lot of World Cup guys or Olympic guys on that team.

"For us, you have to make sure your game is at the best. You're playing great hockey players and the focus and competitiveness has to rise to play top-end competition."

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