October 15 vs. Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Morning Skate Report at 1:00 p.m., Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one with Bruce Boudreau at 5 p.m.,Two-Man Advantage pre-game video at 5 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com
Ottawa Senators (1-3)
Washington Capitals (3-0)
Having won three straight games to start the season for just the fifth time in franchise history, the Caps seek to match the club’s all-time mark of four consecutive wins at season’s outset when the Ottawa Senators come to the District on Saturday night.
Washington opened its season with a franchise record four straight wins in 1991-92 and matched that mark again in 1997-98. The Caps won three straight to start the 2002-03 and 2007-08 seasons.
Each of Washington’s first three wins of 2011-12 has required more than 60 minutes to nail down. The club record for consecutive overtime games is four, established in 1988 and matched twice since, including late last season.
“Three wins and all games go to OT,” notes Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “Time to win a regular game.”
Most recently, the Capitals forged a 3-2 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday night in their first road game of the season. Tomas Vokoun made 39 saves to support the offensive efforts of Mike Knuble, Ovechkin and Dennis Wideman.
The goals from Knuble and Ovechkin were the first of the season for each. Ovechkin had never scored his first goal of the campaign as late as the season’s third game until this, his seventh year in the league.
The Caps were outshot 41-19 in the game, and they had only one power play – on which Wideman scored the game-winner to Pittsburgh’s five. But they still won their third in succession.
The victory was the 192nd for Caps coach Bruce Boudreau behind the Washington bench. That ties him with Ron Wilson for second place on the team’s all-time list; Wilson coached exactly 100 more games for the Caps. Only Bryan Murray – now Ottawa’s general manager – won more games (343) as the Washington bench boss.
“We’re nowhere near as good as we want to be come December, come April,” admits Boudreau. “But I was really happy with the way we were engaged in the [Pittsburgh] game. The guys were all into it, the new guys, the old guys, understanding the rivalry, understanding the meaning of the game against that opponent.
There were a lot of really good feelings of that on the bench. I told them, ‘We didn’t play as good as we could play, but that will come.’ The way they were engaged for each other and playing for each other was really important.
“We’re 3-0, but we could be better. We could be playing better. But no team wants to be the best they’re ever going to be at the beginning of October.”
Caps forward Jay Beagle was injured in a third-period fight with the Penguins’ Arron Asham and did not return to the game. It appeared that Beagle – who has a prior concussion history from his minor league days – might have sustained a concussion after taking a pair of hard punches from Asham. The Caps were relieved to learn that Beagle seems to be okay, although he was held out of Friday’s practice.
“He’s looking good, he’s looking fine,” says Boudreau of Beagle. “He wanted to come out and practice. He wanted to come back [Thursday] night. It looked a little worse than it was.”
Caps netminder Michal Neuvirth has been bothered by a lower body injury and did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh. Braden Holtby was recalled from AHL Hershey to back up Vokoun against the Penguins, but Holtby was returned to the Bears on Friday.
“He’s getting better,” says Boudreau of Neuvirth. “From all accounts, he should be on the ice [Saturday] practicing. I don’t know if he’s going to be backing up, but we expect him to be back on the ice practicing.”
If Neuvirth can’t answer the bell, expect another return engagement from Holtby.
The Sens are coming off a 7-1 pummeling at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in Ottawa on Thursday night. The Senators were victimized by four power-play and one shorthanded goal in that game as the Avs scored four power-play goals in a game for the first time in more than a dozen years.
Ottawa’s Milan Michalek netted the game’s first goal in the fifth minute of the first period of Thursday’s game against the Avalanche, giving the Sens their first lead of the season. The lead lasted all of two minutes and 59 seconds before Colorado scored the first of those four power-play strikes, and the first of seven unanswered goals. The Senators were outshot 30-8 in the first two periods of the Colorado game.
In their four games to date this season, the Sens have tallied a respectable total of a dozen goals for an average of three per contest. But Ottawa has surrendered a whopping 21 goals in those four games, an average of 5.25 goals against per game.
Longtime Caps killer and Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson is a minus-6 on the season, but has contributed a pair of goals and three points in four games. The 38-year-old Alfredsson has 32 goals and 60 points in just 53 career games against the Capitals.
The Senators have used five different rookies in the early going of the 2011-12 season.
Notes: Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik is slated to play in his 1,315th NHL game tonight against Ottawa. That’s one more than ex-NHL center Bobby Holik and will be the most ever by a Czech born and trained player in NHL history. Hamrlik currently leads the NHL with 16 blocked shots. He finished sixth in the league in that category last season with 192.