NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, January 9th
(All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (26-11-6) at Atlanta Thrashers (19-18-6), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - After finally putting an end to a lengthy losing streak in
their last outing, the Atlanta Thrashers now aim to obtain some rare recent
success against the Washington Capitals when the two Southeast Division
members get together tonight at Philips Arena.
The division-leading Capitals have won four straight and six of the last seven
meetings between the teams, two of which occurred in Atlanta earlier this
season. In the most recent matchup, superstar Alex Ovechkin scored twice and
added an assist to lead Washington to a 4-3 decision on October 29.
Ovechkin netted his 27th goal of the season in the Capitals' last game, a 5-2
triumph over Ottawa Thursday at the Verizon Center, but took a back seat to
teammate Nicklas Backstrom for No. 1 star honors.
Backstrom scored two third-period goals that gave Washington a comfortable 4-1
advantage and added an assist earlier in the game to lead his team to its
second straight victory following a three-game slide.
"He showed a lot of leadership, because I thought we were floundering in the
second period when it was 2-1, and then he comes out in the third period and
gets two goals," head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Capitals' official site of
Backstrom. "He was just determined, and that's what is making him one of the
The Thrashers, who currently sit second in the Southeast standings but trail
the Caps by 14 points, got a four-game homestand off to a very encouraging
start with Thursday's 2-1 shootout verdict over the New York Rangers. The win
halted a nine-game skid for Atlanta, the club's longest since October 11-29,
Bryan Little snapped a shot past Rangers netminder Chad Johnson in the fifth
round of the shootout to give the Thrashers an edge, and Atlanta prevailed
when New York's Michael Del Zotto's ensuing bid missed the net.
The Thrashers trailed 1-0 until Jim Slater scored off a feed from Pavel Kubina
with just over six minutes elapsed in the third period. Goaltender Johan
Hedberg kept the game close by stopping 29-of-30 shots, then thwarted four of
the five skaters he faced in the shootout phase.
"We did a lot of things well tonight," Hedberg said. "We deserve this win.
We've been working for it for a long time."
Atlanta may be able to get a further boost tonight in the possible return of
Nik Antropov to the lineup. The team's top-line center, who ranks third among
Thrashers players with 36 points, has sat out the last two games with a hip
Washington starts up a three-game road trip against fellow Southeast Division
foes this evening. The Capitals are a respectable 12-8-3 on the road this
season, but have lost their last two times out as the guest.
01/09 11:34:59 ET