November 17 vs. Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre
Time: 8:30 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: Pre-Cap podcast at 2 p.m., Two-Man Advantage at 2 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Bruce Boudreau at 5 p.m., all on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (10-5-1)
Winnipeg Jets (6-9-3)
Two nights after opening a three-game road trip with a painful 3-1 loss to the Predators in Nashville, the Capitals are back on the ice in the middle match of their journey. Thursday night brings the Capitals to Manitoba for the first time in nearly 16 years. Washington faces the Winnipeg Jets (née Atlanta Thrashers) in the first of six games against its Southeast Division rival.
Washington’s last game in Winnipeg came on Dec. 10, 1995. The Caps skated off with a 6-1 win in that game for then-head coach Jim Schoenfeld. Steve Knowalchuk notched a hat trick for Washington and added an assist for a four-point game. Michal Pivonka had three assists, and he and defensemen Brendan Witt and Sylvain Cote were all plus-3 in the game. Goaltender Jim Carey earned the win with a 25-save performance in the Washington nets.
The lone scrap of the contest featured Washington’s Craig Berube and Winnipeg’s Jim McKenzie, a Capital himself some years later.
The only player who played in that game nearly 16 years ago who is still active in the NHL is Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne. Selanne was a right wing with Winnipeg in those days; he was dealt to Anaheim later in that season.
After managing a combined total of just 37 shots on goal in a weekend home-and-home set with the New Jersey Devils, the Caps opened their current three-game trip in Nashville on Tuesday. Washington poured 40 shots on Predators netminder Pekka Rinne, but was unable to solve him until Troy Brouwer snapped a wrister high to the blocker side late in the third period.
Washington was then unable to protect that slim lead. The Predators evened the game less than a half-minute later and scored what would prove to be the game-winner with just 24.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
Washington is 4-4 on the road thus far this season. The Capitals are 4-0 against Southeast Division foes this season; they are 6-5-1 against the rest of the NHL. Since starting out the season with seven straight wins, Washington is 3-5-1 in its last nine.
The Caps have tallied eight times in their last four games (1-2-1), but still rank second in the NHL with an average of 3.44 goals per game.
Slumping stars are among the reasons for the Caps’ struggles both offensively and defensively. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin has been held pointless in three of the team’s last four games and is a minus-4 during that span. Winger Alexander Semin has but a single goal and three points in his last 11 games, and he has taken at least one minor penalty in each of his last five games with a total of six minors during that stretch.
The Washington power play has been dormant of late; the Capitals are 0-for-12 with the extra man in their last three games. On the season, the Caps have clicked on exactly 20 percent of their power play chances and they rank eighth among all NHL clubs in that category.
Washington’s penalty kill has been tremendous as of late. In their last six games, the capitals have been successful on 22 of 23 (95.7 percent) of their penalty killing missions. For the season, the Caps have climbed to 16th in the league with a kill rate of 83 percent.
Winnipeg is tied with Carolina for the bottom spot in the NHL. After a decade of existence as the Atlanta Thrashers, the team pulled up stakes from that Georgia city and headed north to Winnipeg over the summer. This is almost certainly the last season in which Washington and Winnipeg will be in the same division together.
The Jets opened the season with one win in their first six games (1-4-1). Winnipeg currently is again with one win in its last six (1-3-2), having taken a 5-2 home ice decision from Tampa Bay at MTS Centre on Monday night. That win ended a five-game Winnipeg losing streak.
In seven of their 18 games this season, the Jets have surrendered four or more goals. They’ve allowed three or more goals in 13 of their 18 contests in 2011-12.
Winnipeg played 12 of its first 17 games this season on the road, and it is 3-6-3 in those games. The Caps’ visit is the second game of a three-game homestand for the Jets; Philadelphia visits on Saturday. Winnipeg’s current homestand is its longest of the season to date.
The Jets are averaging 2.61 goals per game to rank 19th in the NHL in that department. Winnipeg is allowing 3.28 goals per game, a figure that ranks 25th in the circuit.
In their final season as the Atlanta Thrashers, the Jets had Washington’s number. The Caps were 2-4 against the Thrashers last season with one of those two victories coming in overtime.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was one of the main reasons for Atlanta’s success against the Capitals in 2010-11. He started in four games and appeared in five against Washington last season, forging a 3-1 record with two shutouts, a 0.55 GAA and a .984 save pct.
Winnipeg is 16th in the NHL in power play prowess with a 15.9 percent extra-man success rate. The Jets are 22nd in the NHL in penalty killing with a kill rate of 79.3 percent on the season to date.
Notes: The Caps traded right wing Eric Fehr to the Jets on July 8 for minor leaguer Danick Paquette and a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to that deal, the Caps’ last swap with a Winnipeg-based NHL club came on Feb. 15, 1996. That’s when then-GM David Poile dealt forward Denis Chasse to Winnipeg for defenseman Stewart Malgunas. Poile had obtained Chasse from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Rob Pearson just 17 days earlier.