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Jan. 22 vs. Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Comcast Sports Network
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
Pre-Game: Two-Man Advantage at 1:00 p.m., John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Adam Oates at 2:00 p.m. on capitalsvoice.com.
Winnipeg Jets (0-1-1)
Washington Capitals (0-1)
Washington hosts its 2012-13 season opener on Tuesday night at Verizon Center when the Winnipeg Jets come to town. Both the Caps and the Jets will be seeking their first wins of the season on Tuesday.
The Caps opened the campaign on Saturday night in Tampa Bay with a 6-3 loss to the Lightning.
Despite trailing 2-1 after the first 20 minutes against the Lightning, the first period was the Capitals’ best in Saturday’s opener. Washington outshot the Lightning 17-8 in the first, and the Capitals teed up 26 shots to just 13 for Tampa Bay in the game’s first 20 minutes. Over the final 40 minutes, however, the Lightning held a 38-24 advantage in shots taken.
Washington drew three power play chances in the first 6:37 of play, cashing in on the third of those when Joel Ward notched his first regular season power-play goal in nearly two years. But Caps goalie Braden Holtby was nicked for goals on the first two shots he faced, and the Caps were never able to own a lead.
The Capitals soon got into penalty trouble of their own, giving Tampa Bay six consecutive power play chances over a span of 30 minutes and 21 seconds. The workload proved to be too much for the Caps’ penalty-killing corps, as the Lightning’s three power-play goals accounted for the margin of victory.
“You’re hoping that you don’t have to kill too many penalties in the first game,” says Caps center Jay Beagle. “You get those first two or three killed and you get your confidence up on the kill. And obviously the first couple of games, the refs call it tight. It’s something that we worked on again [Monday at practice], and talked a lot about it. We’ll continue to work on it and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Including last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Washington had gone 40 games without allowing as many as three power-play goals in a game prior to Saturday’s trio of Lightning strikes. The Caps were victimized by three power-play goals in a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at Verizon Center last Feb. 13.
“Our penalty kill has got to be a lot better,” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “We really have to focus on that. Giving up three [power-play goals] in the first game, that’s not really the start that we wanted. But guys are watching video and making sure that we’re trying to learn the new systems and the new body positions so that we can be effective.”
The Capitals had Sunday off, and they reconvened for a 10:30 a.m. practice on Monday. Prior to that practice session, the Caps spent some time in the video room absorbing the good, the bad and the ugly from Saturday’s game.
“We tracked the puck well,” says Green. “That was one of the positives in the video today. We tracked well, we backchecked hard and created some transition. But the few times we ran into problems were when we were scrambling around in our own zone where guys were working hard but not smart and they were kind of all over the place. The only two times we did that, [the Lightning] scored. And we obviously need to stay out of the box. Other than that, it was a good game.”
Starting with Tuesday’s game against the Jets, the Capitals will play four games in six days, so practice time will be hard to come by this week.
“Our effort was there last game,” says Brouwer. “We were working hard, we were excited to play. We thought coming back into our own zone we were good, denying them options off the rush. We’ve got to tighten up our [defensive] zone a little bit. We made a couple of misreads, but those are to be expected with the new system.”
Winnipeg comes into town on the heels of a Monday matinee against the Bruins in Boston, a game that resulted in a 2-1 shootout loss for the Jets. After playing on Monday afternoon in Boston, the Jets had to fly to D.C. and then navigate their way into the District on Inauguration Day.
As the western-most team in the Eastern Conference by many, many miles (Pittsburgh is next closest), the Jets have a rugged travel schedule in the shortened 2012-13 season. Among all Eastern Conference teams, only the Florida Panthers (48,880) will log more travel miles than the Jets (47,876).
Winnipeg’s MTS Centre proved to be one of the most difficult NHL buildings to play in when the Jets returned to Manitoba last season, but the team struggled on the road. Winnipeg was 14-22-5 on the road last season, 27th among the 30 NHL clubs and 14th among Eastern Conference teams.
Winnipeg finished 11th in the NHL with 221 goals last season, and it was 10th with 158 goals in 5-on-5 play. In the early going this season, Winnipeg’s offense has been found wanting.
The Jets have managed just two goals in 125 minutes over their first two games. One of those tallies was a power-play goal from Dustin Byfuglien, the other an even-strength strike from fourth-liner Chris Thorburn.
Evander Kane netted 30 for the Jets last season – the youngest player in the league to reach that plateau – and captain Andrew Ladd had 28. Bryan Little had 24 and seven other players – six of whom are still on the roster – reached the double-digit level.
Byfuglien (10) and Kane (eight) have combined to account for nearly a third of Winnipeg’s 55 shots on net thus far this season. The Jets have fired 47 of those 55 shots at even-strength.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was solid in Monday’s game against the B’s, but was less so in the team’s season opener, a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators in Winnipeg on Saturday. Whether Pavelec would get a third start in four nights at the start of the season or whether the Jets would give back-up goaltender Al Montoya the start in Washington on Tuesday remains to be seen.
Pavelec started 67 of Winnipeg’s 82 games last season. Lifetime against the Capitals, he is 8-9-1 with two shutouts, a 2.69 GAA and a .916 save pct.
In his first nine appearances (eight starts) against Washington, Pavelec was 1-7 with a 4.11 GAA and an .876 save pct. In his last 11 outings (10 starts) against the Capitals, Pavelec went 7-2-1 with a very tidy 1.53 GAA and a .950 save pct.
Notes: Washington was 2-2-2 against the Jets last season, including 1-0-2 on Verizon Center ice. The Jets outscored Washington 17-13 last season and held a 10-9 edge in goals at the Phone Booth.