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March 16 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden
Time: 1:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
Washington Capitals (11-14-1)
Boston Bruins (18-4-3)
The Capitals conclude a two-game road trip on Saturday against the Bruins when they make their lone visit to Boston this season. The game is Washington’s third Saturday matinee contest in its last four road games.
Washington comes to Beantown on the heels of a 3-2 comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Thursday. Down 2-0 before the midway mark of the first period, the Caps and goaltender Michal Neuvirth held the Canes scoreless the rest of the way while the team’s offense emerged from hibernation.
“That’s huge,” said Caps winger Aaron Volpatti, whose perfect pass set up Washington’s first goal on Thursday. “With the schedule you cant afford to go four or five games without a point or a win, especially in our position. It doesn’t matter how we did it, we got it done and it will be big for us here.”
Having been outscored by a combined 10-0 in their previous six and a half periods of hockey, the Caps got a lift when Volpatti set up Joey Crabb’s second goal of the season early in the second. Alex Ovechkin evened the game on a power-play tally early in the third, and then John Carlson, Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro combined to win it for the Caps with just 2:16 remaining in regulation.
Carlson made a sublime pass to Ovechkin, hitting the Caps’ captain in stride as he hopped over the boards on a line change and broke for the blueline. Ovechkin’s breakaway bid hit the near post, but Ribeiro was on the spot to tuck the rebound over the goal line.
“We’re aware that every point is important right now and every game is important,” said Crabb. “We know that going down 2-0 in the first period isn’t good. But we also knew that if we play our game and play our systems and work hard, we have the skills to finish the plays and we were lucky enough to do that tonight and get the win.”
Making his first start in more than a month, Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth made 36 saves to earn his first win since Jan. 27.
“Hopefully it gives us a little boost for Saturday,” said Caps coach Adam Oates of Thursday’s win. “We’re going into another tough barn, a really tough hockey team. We’ll enjoy it for a day and be right back at it tomorrow.”
Washington’s battered blueline got one player (Tom Poti) back from injury against Carolina but it lost another (Tomas Kundratek) in the early minutes of Thursday’s game. Kundratek was injured when his right leg got caught beneath Carolina’s Jeff Skinner behind the Washington net after Skinner absorbed a Karl Alzner check.
Kundratek left the game after skating just four shifts totaling 3:14 in ice time. Steve Oleksy – recalled from AHL Hershey less than two weeks ago and playing in his sixth NHL game – skated a single-game career high of 27:55 to lead the Caps and he logged a phenomenal total of 25:07 of that at even strength.
“Good for him, really good for him,” said Oates of Oleksy. “When we were in Hershey, with [Caps assistant coach] Calle and Troy Mann down there, he was a sponge. He wasn’t even in our opening [night] lineup down there. Where he has come to, and the minutes he plays, the decisions he is making out there, handling the physical play and the speed, he’s playing great.”
Kundratek returned to D.C. on Friday to undergo an MRI. He is currently listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury.
Injured defensemen Mike Green (lower body) and Jack Hillen (upper body) are traveling with the team while John Erskine (lower body) is not. Cameron Schilling was recalled from Hershey earlier in the week and he remains with the team, but Kundratek is right-handed and Schilling is a lefty.
In the only previous meeting between the Capitals and the Bruins this season, the Caps authored a thrilling 4-3 comeback win that culminated with an Eric Fehr game-winner in overtime. Boston held a 3-0 lead going into the second period of that March 5 game.
The Caps have had a great deal of recent success in the Bruins’ barn, winning five of their last six games at TD Garden over a span of just over a year. Beginning with a March 10, 2012 regular season visit, the Caps won five times in a span of less than two months in Boston early last year. The only loss Washington suffered in Boston during that span was a Game 1 loss in overtime of the first-round playoff series between the two teams.
“They’ve got some real tough d-men to play against,” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “They’ve got some good forwards with some speed; I think we match up well with the speed. Down low, we try and play as tough and as gritty as we can against those big d-men.
“I think things have just kind of gone our way [against the Bruins]. We’ve had some lucky goals, some good comebacks. I think the rivalry that we’ve had developed with them last year during the playoff series fueled it as well.
Boston’s most recent outing was a 4-1 home ice decision over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. The Bruins are 9-2-2 at home this season.
Since their 4-3 overtime setback to the Capitals in Washington on March 5, the Bruins are 4-1 while outscoring their foes by a combined total of 15-8.
The Bruins have suffered just four regulation losses in their first 25 games, fewest of any team in the Eastern Conference. Boston trails Montreal by a single point for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.