NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Sunday, March 13th
(All times eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (37-24-7) at Washington Capitals (39-20-10), 12:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Washington, D.C. area played gracious host to the
defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. The Capitals will
try to make the extended stay a little less pleasant this afternoon.
The Caps try to extend their longest winning streak of the season to eight
straight games and deal the Blackhawks a third straight setback Sunday at the
Washington has used its seven-game run of victories to move past Tampa Bay for
first place in the Southeast Division with 88 points, three more than the
Lightning and three back of the Flyers for the top seed in the Eastern
Conference. Last year's recipient of the Presidents' Trophy for most points in
the league hasn't lost since Feb. 25.
The Capitals engaged in their sixth one-goal game in their last seven contests
on Friday, taking a 2-1 victory over the Hurricanes thanks to third-period
goals by Alex Ovechkin and Matt Hendricks. Ovechkin has a point in each game
of Washington's current win streak, amassing four goals and seven assists in
that span as well as seven goals and 17 points in his last 12 games.
Braden Holtby made 40 saves in his second straight start, including 16 in the
third period for the Capitals, who have bested Carolina in all five meetings
so far this year and are on their longest win streak since a franchise-best
14-game run from Jan. 13-Feb. 7 of last season.
"I thought we were a little lucky tonight and they're overdue to beat us,"
said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "I didn't think we were very sharp
tonight. They had 40 shots on goal and were carrying play through much of the
The Caps have won four straight at home, including the first two contests of a
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth served as the backup for a second straight game
after exiting last Monday's game early when he took a shot off his mask.
Washington also won on Friday without Semyon Varlamov (knee), Mike Green
(head) and Nicklas Backstrom (fractured left thumb), and all three are out for
Holtby will get his third straight start and first ever against the
Blackhawks, who came to town early to visit the White House and President
Barack Obama on Friday as a reward for winning their first Stanley Cup title
since 1961 last season.
"We're hoping to come back," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews told NHL.com.
"There have been lots of great moments [since the Blackhawks won the Cup on
Philadelphia ice in June]. This visit tops it off. Now it's time to win
The Blackhawks, though, will be trying to avoid losing three straight for the
first time since Dec. 11-15 following Wednesday's 4-3 shootout setback to the
Lightning. Still, a 10-2-3 run has pulled Chicago to within nine points of
first-place Detroit in the Central Division and into a tie with Los Angeles,
Phoenix and Calgary for the last four playoff spots in the West. Fourth-place
Dallas is just a point ahead of that pack.
Toews had a goal and two assists in Wednesday's loss, while Patrick Kane and
Patrick Sharp also scored. Corey Crawford, who has never faced the Caps, ended
with 27 saves.
"Everybody knows points are at a premium here," said Chicago defenseman Duncan
Keith. "In the Western Conference, it's a logjam. You're fighting for your
life every night."
Brian Campbell sat out the loss with a lower-body injury and will be a game-
time decision today, while Dave Bolland is out due to a concussion suffered
when he took an elbow to the head by Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina, who was
suspended three games for the hit.
Toews has 11 goals and 30 points in his last 19 games and scored twice in
last year's 4-3 overtime setback at home to Washington. Backstrom scored twice
for the Capitals in their second straight win over Chicago.
Ovechkin missed most of the game after receiving a major and game misconduct
for shoving Campbell violently into the boards. Campbell was hurt on the play
and Ovechkin was suspended for two games.
Washington snapped a two-game series home losing streak when it last hosted
Chicago on Oct. 11, 2008.
03/13 10:30:43 ET