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Caps Visit Jets -- Twice

Wednesday, 03.20.2013 / 8:05 PM

Mike Vogel  - WashingtonCaps.com Senior Writer

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Caps Visit Jets -- Twice
Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets

March 21 vs. Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre

Time: 8:00 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network

Washington Capitals (12-16-1)

Winnipeg Jets (16-12-2)

Washington’s longest road trip of the season continues with a rare two-game stop in Winnipeg where the Caps will play the Southeast Division-leading Jets twice on back-to-back nights. On the heels of a stinging 2-1 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the trip opener, the Capitals take on the Jets for the third of five meetings between the two teams on Thursday.

Winnipeg hosts Washington again on Friday. It’s the first time in the history of both franchises that they’ve played back-to-back games on consecutive nights against the same foe in the same city.

On Tuesday against the Penguins, the Caps jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an Alex Ovechkin power-play goal in the second period. Facing a Penguins team that took a nine-game winning streak into the contest, the Caps went into the third period even at 1-1, a good spot for a road team against a hot team.

The Caps squandered a chance to regain the lead when they failed to score on a four-minute power play in the middle of the final frame. What’s worse, ex-Caps winger Matt Cooke came out of the box, joined the rush and earned the primary assist on Matt Niskanen’s game-winner just nine seconds after Washington’s power play expired.

“We put ourselves in a position where we wanted to be going into the third,” says Caps goaltender Braden Holtby. “But it just didn’t happen for us. We got a lucky break with that penalty. Some days it just doesn’t happen, but I thought our effort overall was actually a lot better than it’s been. It’s obviously not the result we wanted but there were a lot of positives.”

The loss dropped the Capitals back into 14th place in the Eastern Conference standings. With 19 games remaining, the Caps trail a pack of teams tied for eighth place by seven points and they trail the Southeast front-running Jets by nine.

Winning each of these upcoming back-to-back games in Winnipeg appears to be imperative for the Caps.

“It’s always hard to lose, that’s for sure,” says Caps center Mike Ribeiro. “To bounce back, you have no choice but to bounce back. Obviously the next two will be pretty big for us. It can keep us in this race or it can push us down and out of it. The next two will be huge. But you cannot think about the second one if you don’t play the first one right.

“You can go up to 29 [points] and be close to them or you can stay at 25 and they go up to 38 or something and that changes a lot.”

Washington got injured forward Brooks Laich back in its lineup for Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh. Laich played just under 13 minutes in his season debut after missing the first 28 games with a lower body injury.

Now, Washington hopes that defenseman Mike Green might be able to come back into the Caps’ lineup after an absence of three weeks because of a lower body injury.

“It’s just terrible,” says Green of the spate of injuries that have curtailed his activity for the last three seasons. “It’s awful. The worst thing is sitting and watching and being frustrated at the last little while and how things have gone for myself with the injuries. I just wish that I could put together a full season here and stay healthy but it’s been tough. When you go through a stretch of injuries it seems like it snowballs a little bit. Hopefully it’s all over.”

While Green pronounced himself fit to play and insisted he’d be in the lineup on Thursday in Winnipeg, Caps coach Adam Oates sounded a shade more cautious after the team’s Wednesday practice in Pittsburgh.

“Obviously we need Mike,” says Oates. “We’ve got to make sure he is ready. I know he wants to play. I’ll still have to talk to [Caps general manager] George {McPhee] today and we’ll meet with [head athletic trainer Greg Smith] and Mike and make sure that [Thursday] is the right day.

“I know that he wants to play. But we’ve gone down this path before. He was ready to play last time and lasted two days.”

Holtby started in goal on Tuesday and made 34 saves in a losing effort. Oates didn’t commit to Holtby as Thursday’s starter, but he has started each of the last two after Michal Neuvirth started the two contests before that. Neuvirth has had some past success at MTS Centre, but Holtby shutout the Jets here on 35 shots less than three weeks ago.

The Caps have had a habit of running into hot teams of late, and the Jets are no exception. Winnipeg is 6-1-1 in its last six games.

For much of the early part of the season, Winnipeg had the league’s worst penalty-killing outfit. But the Jets have straightened their penalty-killing and they’ve flourished as a result.

After allowing three power-play goals to the Flyers in a 5-3 loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 23, the Jets were 7-9-1 on the season and their penalty kill was dead last in the league with a brutal kill rate of just 67.9%.

Winnipeg’s penalty kill has been perfect in 12 of the team’s 13 games since, and the Jets have forged a 9-3-1 mark during that span. The Jets have not allowed a power play goal on home ice since Feb. 17, and they’ve elevated their kill to 26th in the league at 78.3% on the season. Winnipeg has succeeded on 34 of 36 penalty-killing missions in its last 13 games for a kill rate of 94.4% during that run.

The Jets have struggled mightily on the other side of the special teams coin, although they’ve shown some signs of life on their power play of late. Winnipeg has notched three extra-man tallies in 13 opportunities (23.1%) over its last five games, but those three power-play goals are one more than the Jets managed in their prior 17 games combined (2-for-36, 5.6%).

On the season, the Jets are 23rd in the NHL with a 14.9% success rate on the power play.

2012-2013 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 23 '13WPG 3 at WSH 5M. Perreault
Mar 22 '13WSH 6 at WPG 1T. Brouwer
Mar 21 '13WSH 4 at WPG 0T. Brouwer
Mar 02 '13WSH 3 at WPG 0M. Hendricks
Jan 22 '13WPG 4 at WSH 2B. Wheeler
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
M. Ribeiro30102232-44151
A. Ovechkin30131427-52692
N. Backstrom3042226+11011
T. Brouwer29111021-42253
J. Ward3061016+41210
J. Carlson304913+31400
E. Fehr276612+7811
M. Perreault215712+41620
J. Chimera30189-62400
W. Wolski23448-1602
M. Johansson16437-5011
M. Green17257+3600
T. Kundratek25167-5800
M. Hendricks30426-35801
J. Erskine17325+62000
J. Beagle30134+0801
S. Oleksy10134+01800
K. Alzner30123+1800
J. Schultz24033-71000
J. Crabb26202-1800
A. Volpatti21112+13300
T. Poti16022-2200
R. Hamrlik4011-1200
B. Laich2011+1200
J. Hillen5000-1800
D. Orlov2000+2000
C. Schilling1000-1000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
B. Holtby2111-10-0546242.77.913
M. Neuvirth102-5-1272672.99.899
P. Grubauer20-1-05593.57.915
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
A. Ladd31141630+81123
B. Wheeler31141226-61422
E. Kane3112921+14514
B. Little3141418+9412
D. Byfuglien2641418+32031
N. Antropov3131114+81420
T. Enstrom1321113-3800
O. Jokinen31549-14800
G. Clitsome28279+21210
R. Hainsey31099+1800
K. Wellwood25268-2201
A. Burmistrov27347+61200
Z. Bogosian19246-22100
P. Postma23156-3410
Z. Redmond8134+01200
M. Stuart31213+13900
A. Miettinen11213-2201
A. Ponikarovsky12202-2601
J. Wright29112-83100
J. Slater26112-31900
E. Tangradi24112+0700
A. Peluso5022+11400
C. Thorburn25101-25600
D. Meech7000+2200
M. Scheifele4000+0000
P. Cormier3000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
O. Pavelec2813-13-2757832.78.904
A. Montoya53-0-0101102.33.909