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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, March 14th (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (45-14-9) at Chicago Blackhawks (44-18-5), 12:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Capitals and Blackhawks could very well meet this year in the Stanley Cup Finals, but neither probably feels like a championship- caliber club right now.

Both Washington and Chicago will try to bounce back from disappointing losses this afternoon in a clash of NHL powers at the United Center.

The Capitals lead the league with 99 points, three more than the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks. Washington also owns a 14-point advantage for the top spot in the East, while Chicago comes in three points behind San Jose in the West.

Washington, though, capped a 3-1-1 homestand on Friday with a disappointing loss to Tampa Bay. Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich had the goals for the Capitals, with Fleischmann netting his 20th of the season to surpass his previous career high set last season.

Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading point scorer with 96, had his third straight two-point game with a pair of assists, while Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves.

"We didn't do the job as forwards and defensemen," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We stayed out too long, we got outworked and we didn't play the way we were capable of playing. That's the reason we lost. It had nothing to do with goaltending."

The Capitals suffered their first regulation home loss since Dec. 28, as they had been 14-0-1 in their previous 15 as host. They were also defeated one day after they clinched the Southeast Division without even stepping on the ice.

It is unknown who will get the start in net today as Washington kicks off a four-game road trip. Jose Theodore is 5-6-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average in 12 career starts versus the Blackhawks, while Varlamov has never faced them.

While the Caps feel they were simply outworked on Friday, the Blackhawks return home knowing a late collapse cost them two points. Chicago held a one- goal lead in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon, but saw the Flyers tie the game with just over two minutes left before Philly's Chris Pronger tipped a pass by netminder Cristobal Huet with just 2.1 seconds left in regulation in what ended up being a 3-2 setback.

"Getting out of here without a point -- that's how we should see it," Huet said after making 31 saves. "We lost two points. It's something you have nightmares about."

Kris Versteeg and Marian Hossa tallied for the Blackhawks, who had taken three of four games coming in. Patrick Kane had a nine-game points streak end in the game, a run in which he had totaled four goals and 10 assists.

Antti Niemi is expected to be in goal today for Chicago and he will make his first ever start versus the Capitals.

The Blackhawks had won three straight over the Caps before Washington posted a 4-2 home win over them on Oct. 11 of last season. Chicago blanked the Capitals, 5-0, the last time the teams met at United Center on March 19, 2008.

03/14 10:30:03 ET


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