April 9 vs. Atlanta Thrashers at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM, 106.7 FM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Pregame Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage Pre-Game Show at 6:15, both on washingtoncaps.com
Atlanta Thrashers (34-33-13)
Washington Capitals (53-15-12)
Washington closes out the 2009-10 regular season with a two-game weekend homestand as it prepares for the Stanley Cup playoffs. First up are the Atlanta Thrashers, who visit Verizon Center on Friday night.
With a win over the Thrashers, the Capitals can go over the break-even mark for the first time in their history. Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh extended the Caps’ winning streak to four straight games, and it also put Washington squarely at .500 (1,214-1,214-303-71) for the first time in franchise history. The Caps lost their first game ever to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 9, 1974 and have been looking up at the .500 mark ever since.
For the Capitals, the penultimate game of the 2009-10 regular season is another chapter in the team’s ongoing tune-up for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin for Washington late next week.
The Caps are seeking their 30th home ice win of the season, which would match a franchise standard set in 1985-86. With wins in each of their two remaining home games, the Caps could establish a new standard this season. Washington needs just two points to become only the second team in the last 13 seasons to reach the 120-point level.
Several members of the Caps are also closing in on personal milestones of significance. Goaltender Jose Theodore, who received a richly deserved nomination for the Masterton Trophy on Thursday, is one victory shy of reaching 30 for the fourth time in his NHL career.
Defenseman Mike Green is one goal shy of 20. If he reaches that plateau, he would become the first NHL blueliner to have consecutive 20-goal seasons since Larry Murphy and Jeff Brown both did so in 1991-92 and 1992-93. Murphy and Brown are both ex-Caps.
Caps right wing Mike Knuble is two goals shy of reaching 30 for the third time in his NHL career. Knuble may not play in Friday’s game; it is possible that he will be one of the players Caps coach Bruce Boudreau chooses to rest against Atlanta.
Winger Alexander Semin needs one goal to reach 40 for the first time in his NHL career.
Alex Ovechkin is two goals shy of the fourth 50-goal season in his NHL career. Ovechkin also trails Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby by one for the NHL’s lead in goals. The Caps’ superstar left wing goes into the weekend’s action just one point behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s leading scorer.
Center Nicklas Backstrom is fourth in the league in scoring, and he is just two points shy of reaching the century mark for the first time in his NHL career. If he reaches that plateau, he would join Mike Gartner and Ovechkin as just the third Capital ever to do so.
Atlanta made a valiant late push for a playoff spot after it traded star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey on Feb. 4. But the Thrashers’ run fell short when they were eliminated from Stanley Cup playoff competition by virtue of Tuesday’s loss to New Jersey.
Since the deal with the Devils, the Thrashers are 10-10-5.
The Thrashers have rolled up the third-highest point total in the franchise’s 10-year history, but it wasn’t enough to get the team into the playoffs for the second time in a decade. Going 6-13 in games decided in overtime is a significant factor in Atlanta falling short of the playoffs again this season. The Thrashers are 2-7 in games decided in overtime and 4-6 in the shootout.
Atlanta has been limited to less than 30 shots in 10 of its last 12 games and has averaged just 23 shots per contest in its last five. Although Atlanta ranks eighth in the league with an average of 2.84 goals per game, the Thrashers have managed just 13 goals in their last eight games.