January 19 vs. Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Pregame Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage Pre-Game show at 6:25 p.m., both on www.washingtoncaps.com
Detroit Red Wings (24-16-8)
Washington Capitals (30-12-6)
Washington seeks to run the table on a three-game homestand when the Detroit Red Wings make their lone visit of the season to Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
The Caps took down Toronto on Friday and flattened the Flyers on Sunday in the first two games of the homestand. Washington is 16-3-3 on District ice this season and it has won four straight and nine of its last 10 at home in 2009-10.
When Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Washington bench on Nov. 22, 2007, the Capitals owned a dismal 2-7 record on home ice early in the 2007-08 season. Since then, Washington is 66-20-9 during the regular season on Verizon Center ice.
Washington’s offense has been in high gear for the last couple of weeks. The Capitals have scored four or more goals in each of their last seven games, posting a 6-1 record along the way. The last time Washington had a longer streak of sustained offensive success was an 11-game run of four or more goals from Oct. 27-Nov. 22, 1991.
During that streak more than 18 years ago, the Capitals posted an 8-3 record and outscored the opposition by a combined 64-34. Washington has outgunned its foes by an aggregate 36-20.
The Caps are getting the lion’s share of their scoring at even strength, too. Washington has had just 14 power play chances in its last five games, but it has cashed in on half of them. In 10 of their last 18 games, the Capitals have had three or fewer power play chances during the contest.
Starting consecutive games for the first time in a month, Caps goaltender Jose Theodore got off to a dicey start in Sunday’s victory over the Flyers. He was nicked for two tallies on the first eight shots of the game, but he rallied to stop 24 of the last 25 Flyer bids.
Including a pair of relief efforts, Theodore has appeared in four straight games for Washington. In five January games (three starts), Theodore has a 4-1 record to go along with a very sharp 2.12 GAA and a .929 save pct. He already has more wins in January than he had in any of the season’s first three months (three each in October, November and December).
Theodore got the start in the previous meeting between the Caps and the Wings this season, a 2-1 Detroit win in Motown on Oct. 10. Theodore was strong in a losing effort that night, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced.
Although Theodore sports a 2-6 career record against the Red Wings, his 2.52 GAA and his .926 save pct. against Detroit are more than respectable.
Heading into Tuesday’s game with the Wings, the Capitals are even with Buffalo atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Sabres have a game in hand on Washington.
Tuesday’s game against Detroit is the first of consecutive contests for the Caps against the finalists from each of the last two Stanley Cup final series.
Although the Red Wings have dipped in the Western Conference standings and would miss the playoffs if the postseason began today, they are still a model organization and a dangerous team. The Penguins have struggled recently, but no one looks forward to Pittsburgh on its upcoming schedule.
“I don’t think there is any good time to play Pittsburgh or Detroit,” says Boudreau. “I think it would have been better to play Detroit when they had 10 guys out, maybe. But they’re getting healthy and their desire to win is so much right now. I thought they outplayed Dallas and they outplayed Chicago and fell short in overtime and a shootout. They’re going to be a great test for us.”
Detroit has been shutout seven times this season, including four times on home ice. The Red Wings won four straight games in mid-December, and that’s their longest winning streak of the season. The Wings scored exactly three goals in each of those four games.
With an average of 2.5 goals scored per game, the Wings rank 27th in the NHL. They are down more than a goal a game from their league-leading total of 3.52 goals per game in 2008-09.
While last season’s Wings led the NHL with a 25.5% power play success rate, this year’s model ranks 16th in the circuit at 17.8%.
Injuries have taken a severe toll on the Wings and have certainly had an impact on the team’s offensive output. Only three Red Wings – forward Todd Bertuzzi and defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart – have skated in each of the team’s first 48 games this season.
Detroit does boast the league’s eighth stingiest defense. The Red Wings allow just 2.48 goals per game this season.
Rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard has taken over the reins from veteran Chris Osgood in goal for the Red Wings this season. Howard has started each of Detroit’s last dozen games. Howard’s .928 save pct. is second best in the NHL this season and his 2.18 GAA is fifth.
In his last 11 games, Howard is 6-2-3 with a 1.78 GAA and a .948 save pct. He has limited his opponents to two or fewer goals in eight of his last 11 starts.
The Wings are coming to town off a pair of shootout losses, a 3-2 defeat in Dallas on Saturday and a 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks at home on Sunday.
Although Detroit is an abysmal 6-for-54 (11.1%) on the power play in its last 17 games, the Red Wings are 4-for-9 (44.4%) with the extra man in their last three contests.