April 6 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena
Time: 7:30 pm TV: Versus Radio: 820AM, 1500AM, 106.7 FM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Pregame Podcast at 2 p.m. on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (52-15-12)
Pittsburgh Penguins (45-26-7)
A night after taking a 3-2 overtime decision over the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center, the Capitals head to Pittsburgh for a Tuesday night date with the Penguins. The game is Washington’s final road contest of the season, it is the back end of the Caps’ last set of back-to-back contests in 2009-10, and it is the Capitals’ final regular season visit to venerable Mellon Arena, which will give way to a new barn in the ‘Burgh next season.
For Washington, Tuesday’s tilt is yet another tune-up as the Caps prepare for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs next week.
Jose Theodore made 28 saves to earn the win in Monday’s game against the Bruins. Theodore is now 19-0-3 in his last 22 decisions; he has not tasted defeat in a regulation game since a 7-4 loss to the Lightning in Tampa on Jan. 12. Theodore’s last regulation loss at home came on Dec. 28 against Carolina.
Although he has a 13-2-4 record at Verizon Center this season, Theodore has actually fared better away from the District in 2009-10. He has posted a 16-5-3 mark on the road, but his peripheral road numbers (a 2.53 GAA and a .920 save pct.) away from D.C. are far better than those from the Phone Booth (a 3.15 GAA and an .899 save pct.).
There is a chance that Theodore plays on Tuesday against the Pens, getting both starts in a set of back-to-back games. He has started both ends of back-to-backs just once previously this season, sweeping a home-and-home set with Florida on Nov. 6-7. Theodore is 18-4-3 lifetime against Pittsburgh with three shutouts, a 2.41 GAA and a .914 save pct. He is 7-1-1 with two shutouts, a 1.99 GAA and .931 save pct. lifetime at Mellon Arena.
Brooks Laich supplied the overtime game-winner on a Washington power play in Monday’s win over the Bruins. For Laich, it was his 12th power play goal of the season. He and Alex Ovechkin are tied for the team lead in extra-man tallies.
If it can win two of their final three games of the regular season, Washington can become just the second team in the post-lockout era to amass as many as 120 points in a season. The 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings rolled up 124 points, going into the postseason on a 10-1-1 roll in their final 10 regular season games.
However, the ’05-06 Wings also serve as a cautionary tale for Presidents’ Trophy-winning teams. The lone regulation loss in Detroit’s last dozen regular season games during that campaign was a 6-3 setback in the finale. The Wings didn’t recover and were ousted by No. 8 seed Edmonton in a six-game, first-round series.
Washington is 28-4-6 in the second half of the 2009-10 season and it is 11-2-4 since the Olympic break. The Capitals have 11 more points than every other team in the NHL in the season’s second half.
Going into Tuesday night’s NHL action, Pittsburgh is in a dead heat with New Jersey for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have identical records and both have four games (two at home, two on the road) remaining. The Devils have a bit of an upper hand on the tiebreaker front, having won all six of the half dozen regular season meetings between Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
The Penguins play their final regular season game at Mellon Arena against the Islanders on Thursday. Pittsburgh finishes the season with back-to-backs on the road this weekend, against the Thrashers and Islanders, respectively. New Jersey also plays the Thrashers and the Islanders, so those two teams will have somewhat of a say-so in which team emerges as the Atlantic Division champion.
Beginning with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Capitals in Washington on Feb. 7, the Penguins have taken at least a point in 16 of their last 20 games (10-4-6).
Pittsburgh has been successful on 47 of its last 52 (90.4%) penalty killing missions.
Notes: Washington’s next goal will be its 300th of the season. The Caps would be the first NHL team to reach that plateau since 2005-06 … The Caps are essentially a .500 team in one-goal games (20-8-12), but they are 32-7 in games decided by more than one goal … Washington is 13-3-3 against Atlantic Division opponents this season … The Capitals are 10-1-1 in a dozen April games since Bruce Boudreau took over as the team’s coach.