December 12 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (20-6-6)
Toronto Maple Leafs (10-14-7)
A night after playing its only home game in a 19-day span, Washington heads right back out on the road for the first of four straight away from Verizon Center. The Caps head to Toronto on Saturday for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance north of the border against the Maple Leafs.
Washington started slowly in Friday’s home game against the Carolina Hurricanes, digging itself a two-goal hole after 20 minutes for the first time this season. But the Caps rebounded with two of their own – both off the stick of Alexander Semin – in the second period, and Washington won it in overtime on the fourth overtime game-winner of Mike Green’s career.
The victory was Washington’s 20th of the season and it came in the team’s 32nd game of 2009-10. Only the 1991-92 Capitals reached the 20-win plateau faster; they needed only 28 games in which to achieve the feat.
The Capitals’ “Young Guns” were prominent in Friday’s win. Semin scored twice, and Green had the game-winner. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin each had a pair of assists. As was the case at the end of last season, all four “Young Guns” are now averaging a point per game or better this season.
Jose Theodore got the start in goal for Washington on Friday. He was nicked for two goals on the first three shots he faced in the game and he surrendered three goals on 19 shots overall. But Theodore came away with the win and is now 7-2-2 in his last 11 decisions.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that he will likely go with 21-year-old rookie Czech netminder Michal Neuvirth on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs. Neuvirth is 2-2 with a 3.02 GAA and an .887 save pct. in six career NHL appearances, four of them starts. He lost his lone start to date this season, a 3-2 home ice loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 20.
Neuvirth has won the only road start of his NHL career to date, a 5-1 win at Tampa Bay last Feb. 14. Neuvirth stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in that game, his NHL debut.
After sputtering out to an 0-7-1 start this season, the Leafs have straightened the ship. Toronto has collected at least a point in 16 of its 23 games since (10-7-6). The Maple Leafs are 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.
Although they’re still 14th in the Eastern Conference standings, the Maple Leafs are just a point behind 13th place Florida and only five points behind eighth-place Montreal in the conference.
Since sharpshooting winger Phil Kessel – obtained in an off-season trade with the Bruins – returned to the lineup after off-season shoulder surgery, the Leafs are 9-7-3.
Relegated to back-up status with the arrival of Swedish import Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson this season, Toronto netminder Vesa Toskala has started each of the Leafs last three games. Gustavsson is sidelined indefinitely with an elevated heart rate.
Gustavsson is 6-5-5 with a 3.14 GAA and a .900 save pct. this season. Toskala is 3-5-2 with a 3.75 GAA and an .870 save pct. Toskala earned a 2-1 shootout win over Washington in the Capitals’ previous visit to Toronto this season back on Nov. 21. He stopped 31 of 32 shots he faced in that game.
Toskala is 3-4 lifetime against the Caps with a 2.89 GAA and a .902 save pct.