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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Tuesday, March 22nd (All times eastern)

Washington Capitals (42-21-10) at Philadelphia Flyers (44-19-8), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals will try to draw even with the Philadelphia Flyers atop the Eastern Conference tonight, but they will have to do so without the help of Alex Ovechkin.

The Capitals enter tonight's game at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center trailing the Flyers by two points for the conference's top seed and they'll try to knock off Philly without the services of their captain and leading scorer.

Washington announced on Monday that Ovechkin will miss the next 7-to-10 days with an undisclosed ailment. Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said that Ovechkin has been bothered by this particular issue for several months, and general manager George McPhee added that the sixth-year winger needs some time to get completely healed.

With Washington in the midst of a stretch where it has just four games scheduled in a 10-day span, this seemed to be a good time to give Ovechkin the rest he needs.

The 25-year-old Russian is having one of his lesser statistical seasons, but is still leading Washington in goals (29) and assists (48). Ovechkin is also a plus-22 in head coach Bruce Boudreau's new defensive-oriented system.

In addition to being just two points behind the Flyers, Washington is also five points up on the second-place Lightning in the Southeast Division. The Capitals have won 10 of their last 11 games to take control of the division.

The Caps can also clinch a playoff spot tonight with either a win over the Flyers or a loss by the Carolina Hurricanes against Ottawa.

Philadelphia, which has two games in hand over the Caps, is riding a six-game point streak with a 4-0-2 record since a four-game losing streak. With 96 points, the Flyers are four points ahead of idle Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers will host the Penguins on Thursday.

Tonight's tilt is the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the Flyers and Capitals this season, and, if the first three encounters of 2010-11 are any indication, this evening's game could be headed past regulation. All three encounters this year have bled into overtime and Philadelphia has won the last two meetings after Washington's 3-2 OT victory on Nov. 7.

The Caps have won five of eight overall in the series and Boudreau's club has taken six of its last nine tests in Philadelphia.

Washington had a nine-game winning streak halted last Wednesday in Detroit, but rebounded with Friday's road shutout win over New Jersey. Michal Neuvirth stopped 33 shots for his fourth shutout of the season to help the Caps take a 3-0 win over the Devils.

"He was pretty good and you could tell he wanted it tonight," said Boudreau of Neuvirth. "He was pretty upset with the last goal he gave up to Detroit and wanted to prove himself tonight. He was the difference in this game."

Mike Knuble had two goals and an assist while Jeff Schultz scored the other goal for the Capitals, who are playing the fourth test of a six-game road trip tonight.

Washington has won seven of its last eight road tilts and is 20-13-3 as the guest this season.

The Flyers became the first team in the East to clinch a playoff spot this season when they notched a shootout win Saturday night in Dallas. Ville Leino's goal in the sixth round of the shootout lifted Philadelphia to the important 3-2 victory at American Airlines Center.

"It's kind of nice ... not to be desperate and win every game," said Leino. "I think it's going to be good to get rest."

Jeff Carter and Mike Richards scored in regulation for the Flyers, who last season needed to beat the Rangers in a shootout on the final day of the regular season to make the playoffs. Philadelphia made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring despite waiting until the 11th hour to clinch a postseason berth.

Sergei Bobrovsky got the win Saturday with 27 stops to help Philadelphia clinch its 15th playoff trip in the last 16 seasons.

The Flyers have a 21-10-4 home record this season, but have lost three of their last four tests in south Philadelphia.

03/22 10:57:12 ET


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