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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, December 12th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (20-6-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (10-14-7), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals will try to get a four-game road trip off to a quick start when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Air Canada Centre.

The Capitals, who are leading the Eastern Conference with 46 points, have a solid 10-4-3 record as the guest this year. Washington had won four straight on the road prior to Wednesday's loss in Buffalo.

Washington bounced back from the loss to the Sabres, as it edged visiting Carolina in an overtime battle on Friday. Mike Green scored the game-winner 1:16 into OT, leading the Caps to a 4-3 decision at Verizon Center. Nicklas Backstrom, who had two assists in the contest, won a battle along the boards and slid a pass in front to Green, whose wrister beat Cam Ward.

Alexander Semin had two goals and Tomas Fleischmann also scored for Washington, which has won seven of its last eight games.

Jose Theodore made 16 saves for the victors and is expected to get the start again tonight with Semyon Varlamov still battling a groin injury. Varlamov, who has been out since beating Tampa Bay on December 7, could return Tuesday night in Colorado.

Washington forward Mike Knuble, who missed the previous 12 games with a broken pinkie, returned to the lineup on Friday and registered four shots on goal in over 15 minutes of ice time. Defenseman Brian Pothier missed Friday's game, however, and is questionable tonight with an undisclosed injury.

In addition to Tuesday's game in Denver, the Caps will also visit Vancouver and Edmonton before completing this swing.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs welcome the Capitals to town to begin a three-game homestand. Toronto is just 4-7-3 at home this year, but is trying to win three straight as the host for the first time this season.

After consecutive wins over Atlanta and the New York Islanders, Toronto traveled to Boston for the second time in a week on Thursday and was handed a 5-2 setback. That came five days after a 7-2 beating in Beantown on December 5.

The Maple Leafs trailed by three goals before getting third-period tallies by Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. However, the Bruins answered with another two goals in the third.

Vesa Toskala made 29 saves in defeat, just Toronto's second in six games but seventh in a row to the Bruins.

"The first period, I thought we played pretty well," said Toronto head coach Ron Wilson. "The second period we sat back and didn't move our feet. The third period, we went back on the attack and did the things we needed to do."

Phil Kessel was shut down for the second straight time by his former Boston club and has now gone a season-long four games in a row without a goal.

Toronto is getting close to having goaltender Jonas Gustavsson back after he took part in an optional skate on Friday just one week after having a second minor procedure for an abnormal heart rate. His return date is still unknown.

The Caps earned a 6-4 home win over Toronto on October 3, but the Leafs answered back with a 2-1 shootout victory at Air Canada Centre on November 21 to even the season series. Toronto has taken three of four overall from Washington and the Caps have dropped two in a row and three out of four on the road against the Leafs.

The final scheduled meeting between these clubs this year will take place on January 15 in D.C.

12/12 10:50:55 ET


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