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Staying out of the penalty box will be key for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Right Wing  - WAS
Goals: 14 | Assists: 7 | Pts: 21

Shots: 100 | +/-: -10
DETROIT – Something the Red Wings can ill-afford to do tonight against the Washington Capitals? Wear out a path to the penalty box.

The Red Wings are among the three fewest penalized teams in the league, averaging 8.6 penalty minutes per game this season. And while they’ve killed off 24-of-25 penalties in the last seven games, the Red Wings don’t want to give the Capitals a reason to fire up their potent power-play machine.

The Capitals’ power play is led by the lethal combination of Alex Ovechkin and his offensive sidekick Nicklas Backstrom. With the season nearly the end of the first quarter, Ovechkin and Backstrom are 1-2 in the league in power-play points. Ovechkin leads the NHL with seven power-play goals, while Backstrom has compiled a league-best 11 power-play assists.

“He’s just a big man of super, super skill,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He can be physical but his ability to shoot the puck makes you so nervous. He’s a great skater. When he plays the off-side he pulls it in through your legs and shoots it through a screen all the time. When he’s playing the forehand side he does that outside-in move a fair bit. He finds a way to activate himself real well and get open. He hangs out high. If you give him any space at all he can kill you that way. He’s a guy who can play big minutes. He scores goals. It’s hard to score goals in the NHL.”

A three-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goal scorer, Ovechkin is currently two goals shy of league-leader Alexander Steen (16) of the St. Louis Blues. He’s definitely a dangerous man, as the Wings know all too well. He has registered 12 points in eight career games against Detroit, including nine points on the power play.

“You’ve just got to minimize his space and time,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously, he’s got a great shot and finds a way to always be open it seems. Playing with Backstrom, too, he’s a really good disher. You’ve just got to be aware of them whenever they’re out there and try to have the puck as much as possible.”

Since returning from an upper-body injury 10 days ago, Ovechkin has four goals and two assists in five games. He’s heating up and looking forward to facing the Red Wings.

“A great team, a great organization,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always fun to play against those kinds of teams, especially with those players.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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