November 8 vs. Dallas Stars at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Morning Skate Report at 1 p.m., Pre-Cap podcast at 2 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Bruce Boudreau at 5 p.m., Two-Man Advantage pre-game video at 5:00 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com
Dallas Stars (10-3)
Washington Capitals (9-3)
On Saturday night, the Caps failed in their bid to become the first NHL team to win 10 games when they lost a 2-0 lead on their way to a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Islanders in New York. On Sunday, the Dallas Stars became the first NHL team to win 10 games when they downed the Hurricanes 5-2 in Carolina.
On Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the Caps and Stars face-off against each other for their lone meeting of the season.
Seeking their third straight win, the Caps got off to a strong 2-0 start in the first period on Saturday against the Islanders. But they couldn’t manage to administer a knockout punch in the second period, and New York clawed their way to a 2-2 draw after 40 minutes of play. The Isles were better in their own end in the third, and they ended a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) against the Caps, skating off with a 5-3 win.
Washington showed a killer instinct in its 5-1 Friday night win over Carolina, turning a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of play into a comfortable victory. The Caps were unable to do the same to the Islanders on Saturday.
“We’ve got to keep pushing forward,” Caps defenseman John Carlson told Caps radio play-by-play man John Walton on Monday. “Sometimes, we get back on our heels when we feel like we’re doing good. We can’t do that. We’ve got to be a team – as you see in our good wins – that keeps pushing forward no matter if it’s the first period, second period or third period. If they score, we’ve still got to keep going. If we’re down, we’ve still got to keep having the same mindset and playing the same game.”
The Capitals are 2-2 against Western Conference opponents this season. Washington has been in a slew of high-scoring games of late; either the Caps or their opponents or both have scored five or more goals in each of the last four games and six of the last seven.
Caps defenseman Mike Green has been sidelined with a lower body injury since Oct. 22 when he hung a four-point (two goals, two assists) night on the Red Wings in a 7-1 Washington win. After missing more than two weeks of game action, Green made it through Saturday’s morning skate on Long Island and Monday’s practice at Kettler.
“He’s day-to-day right now,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Green. “He’s getting a lot closer. We haven’t made any decisions one way or the other on it. But he took full practice today, and he felt a lot better. He is taking some power play time, so we’ll sleep on it and see how it goes.
“We don’t want to rush him, and we’re not going to rush him, either.”
The Caps expect forward Jay Beagle to be back out on the sheet for Tuesday’s morning skate as he continues to get closer to a return to game action. Beagle has been sidelined since taking a punch from the Penguins’ Arron Asham in an Oct. 12 game at Pittsburgh.
Tomas Vokoun started and absorbed the loss on Saturday against the Islanders, and Michal Neuvirth seems likely to get the start on Tuesday against Dallas. Neuvirth started and won on Friday in Carolina, and Vokoun’s lifetime numbers against Dallas are less than stellar at 6-18-1 with a 2.64 GAA and a .902 save pct.
Washington’s power play has contributed at least one goal to the team’s cause in nine of 12 games this season. The Capitals are clicking at 25% on the power play in 2011-12, fourth best in the NHL.
The Caps have killed 78.6% of the opposition’s power play this season, 23rd in the league. Washington is 6-for-6 on the kill in its last two games.
Dallas missed out on a possible Stanley Cup Playoff berth on the final day of the 2010-11 regular season. An off-season coaching change and some personnel tweaking have had a positive effect, and the Stars have been one of the league’s early season surprises
The Stars have yet to lose consecutive contests, and two of their three losses came at the hands of divisional foe Los Angeles.
“They’ve got [soon-to-be Hockey Hall of Famer Joe] Nieuwendyk as the GM there and a good coaching staff,” says Caps defenseman and ex-Star John Erskine. “I only know a handful of guys who are still on the team, but they’re playing well. I think they’re probably the best in the West right now, so it should be a good test for us.”
Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen was the second player chosen overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After spending several injury-riddled seasons in Atlanta, Lehtonen was dealt to Dallas late in the 2009-10 season. He rededicated himself to conditioning, and played in a career high 69 games last season, winning 34 to match his single-season career best.
Thus far this season, Lehtonen is 10-1 with a 2.14 GAA and a .936 save pct. He has not faced the Capitals as a member of the Stars; his last start against the Caps was a 5-1 win at Philips Arena in Atlanta on March 16, 2009.
“It seems like a long time removed,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Lehtonen’s days with the Thrashers. “He’s I think at a different place in his career than he was when he was with Atlanta. He’s obviously playing as good as any goalie in the NHL right now. It’s not going to be an easy task because I think [the Stars] are No. 1 in the West at this stage, too.
“They’re playing really well. They’re getting great goaltending. When they have to shut teams down, they’re shutting teams down. When they have to score, they’re scoring. They’ve got everything going for them and they’re feeling quite good about themselves right now. I believe they’ll come in here loaded for bear and ready to go. Again, for want of a better word, it’s going to be a great test.”
Dallas is ninth in the league with a 19.2% power play success rate and the Stars are 15th in penalty killing with a kill rate of 83.3%.