March 2 vs. Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre
Time: 3:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast Sports Network
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
Washington Capitals (7-11-1)
Winnipeg Jets (10-9-1)
The Capitals finish up a two-game road tour with a Saturday matinee in Winnipeg against the Jets. The game is the first of three for the Caps in Winnipeg in the month of March.
Still mired in the basement of the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference standings, the Caps are in need of a win in this four-point affair to keep the Southeast leader within their sights. Washington goes into Saturday’s game trailing Winnipeg and Carolina – the co-leaders of the Southeast Division – by six points.
Coming into the game on the heels of what is arguably their poorest overall performance in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia, the Caps will be seeking a performance along the lines of those they put forth last Saturday against New Jersey or Tuesday against Carolina, both convincing Washington wins.
Washington surrendered an even-strength goal just 23 seconds into Wednesday’s game against the Flyers then fell into a 2-0 hole when Philly scored on a power play just 4:04 into the first frame.
“We had been playing some pretty good hockey,” says Caps left wing Matt Hendricks. “Definitely a big hiccup in Philly. It wasn’t our best outing at all. We didn’t show up to play right away and that’s really what affected us.
“We had some good looks even in the third period, but the game was out of reach by then. I think you’ve got to learn from it, you’ve got to look at it, you’ve got to learn from it but let it go and move on to the next one. We don’t have time to dwell.”
Winnipeg has had some fast starts of its own of late; Andrew Ladd scored just eight seconds after the opening face-off in Thursday’s 3-1 Jets win over the New Jersey Devils. Prior to the game in Philadelphia, the Caps had not allowed a first-period goal in four straight games. In the loud and hostile Winnipeg barn, falling behind early is a poor formula for success for the visiting team.
“Going into Winnipeg itself – even if they’re not playing well – is a real tough task,” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer, “and they’re playing real well right now. We got scored on before the anthem was done last game and [Winnipeg] scored a goal right at the beginning of the game [on Thursday].
“We’ve got to have a good start there. We know they’re going to come out hard, we know they’re going to play a hard game at home and their fans are going to be very into it. We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to play.”
In its three games against the Jets in Winnipeg last season, Washington managed to score a total of just four goals. The Caps went 1-2 in those three MTS Centre games, with their lone win coming on a 1-0 Michal Neuvirth shutout in mid-December. Alex Ovechkin supplied the game-winner in that one, scoring late in the third period to break up a scoreless tie.
The Caps made a roster addition on Thursday, claiming left wing Aaron Volpatti off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks. Volpatti will join the Caps in Winnipeg. If he were to play against the Jets on Saturday, he would be doing so without the benefit of a single practice or skate with his new teammates. Because Saturday’s game is an afternoon contest, neither team will hold a morning skate prior to puck drop.
“He’s a big, strong kid, plays on the left side,” says Caps coach Adam Oates of Volpatti. “We’re hoping to just have another big guy in the lineup to help the system go north. We’re looking forward to seeing what he brings. I really don’t know him that well; I’ve just watched him on video. The scouts like him and think he can fill a hole there for us.”
Having played against Volpatti, Hendricks endorses the move.
“I don’t know him very well,” says Hendricks of Volpatti. “I remember playing against him last year in Vancouver. He was effective against us. He skates hard, hits hard, plays that gritty sandpaper style of hockey that I like to see. I look forward to meeting him and having him on our team.”
Braden Holtby started in goal for the Capitals in Philadelphia but was pulled late in the second period after surrendering the fourth goal of the game. Rookie Philipp Grubauer came on in relief, stopping all 14 shots he faced in his NHL debut. Michal Neuvirth is over the illness that kept him from accompanying the Caps to Philly, and Grubauer has been returned to AHL Hershey.
Holtby will get his ninth straight start on Saturday against the Jets in Winnipeg.
After a successful 4-1 road trip, the Jets are back home for a quick two-game homestand. They started the homestand with a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. After Saturday’s game against Washington, the Jets will fly south for a four-game road trip. Three of the games on Winnipeg’s upcoming trip will be played in Florida.
Improvement on the road has been a big factor for the Jets this season. Winnipeg won a total of just 14 road games in 2011-12, going 14-22-5 away from MTS Centre its first season up north after moving from Atlanta.
The Jets are almost halfway to that road win total of last season already, going 6-4-1 in their first 11 road contests of 2012-13.
Fueled by the momentum they gained on their recent road trip, the Jets have won three straight and five of their last six to pull even with Carolina for the top perch in the Southeast Division.
The Jets are last in the league with a dismal 71.4% penalty-kill rate thus far this season, but they’ve been perfect (7-for-7) in their last three games in that department. Winnipeg is 8-0-1 in the nine games in which it has killed all of its shorthanded situations.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec played in his 205th NHL game on Thursday. In doing so, he established an all-time franchise record for goaltenders for the Atlanta-Winnipeg NHL entry. Pavelec has now played one more game than Kari Lehtonen – now of the Dallas Star – did for the Thrashers/Jets.