NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, February 25th
(All times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (30-26-5) at Toronto Maple Leafs (29-25-7), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will visit the
Toronto Maple Leafs tonight for an important battle in Eastern Conference
playoff race at Air Canada Centre.
After missing one game with a lower-body injury, Ovechkin was back on the ice
for Washington in Friday's 4-1 victory over visiting Montreal. Ovechkin scored
a goal to help the Capitals halt a three-game losing streak and win for just
the second time in eight outings.
The victory also allowed Washington to tie Toronto for the ninth seed in the
East and the clubs enter Saturday's action trailing Florida by just one point
for the conference's eighth and final postseason berth. The Panthers also play
tonight at Carolina.
The Maple Leafs, who last qualified for the playoffs in the spring of 2004,
have not helped their postseason chances lately, losing three straight and
seven of their last eight contests. Toronto will try to get back on track
tonight against a Washington club that has gotten the better of the Leafs in
Washington is 5-1-1 in the last seven encounters against the Maple Leafs, but
Toronto routed the Capitals in this year's first meeting between the clubs at
Air Canada Centre. Toronto slammed the Caps by a 7-1 margin back on Nov. 22,
as Tyler Bozak posted two goals and an assist for the hosts. It was Toronto's
fourth win in the last six home meetings against Washington.
While the Caps are just outside the playoff picture in the East, they are also
still very much alive in the race for the Southeast Division title. Florida is
second in the division and Winnipeg is just two points ahead of the Caps for
the top spot. Washington has won the last four division titles.
Washington's Michal Neuvirth stopped 30 shots to help the Capitals take down
the Canadiens on Friday. It was Neuvirth's first start since Feb. 12, but
Tomas Vokoun is expected to get the call in net tonight.
Jason Chimera had a goal and an assist while Ovechkin, Joel Ward, and
Mathieu Perreault scored for the Capitals, who won despite going 0-for-6 on
the power play.
"I thought we played solid," said Caps forward Brooks Laich. "I didn't think
we gave them -- especially their top guys -- many chances at all. You could
see frustration on their face. We just have to have that. We have to find a
way to have that all the time."
Washington will try to end a three-game road skid tonight. The Caps are just
10-18-3 away from D.C. this year compared to a 20-8-2 record at home.
Toronto is playing the third test of a four-game homestand tonight and is
0-1-1 so far on the residency. Overall, the Leafs, who will complete the stand
Tuesday against Florida, are 16-10-5 as the host this year.
The Maple Leafs last played on Thursday and were dealt a 2-1 regulation loss
by the San Jose Sharks. Patrick Marleau scored both goals for the visitors and
Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the win.
Jake Gardiner scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, who fell to 1-6-1 over
their last eight games. James Reimer stopped 23-of-25 shots for Toronto.
"We just couldn't get the offense going," Reimer said. "They're big in the
front and the back end. They're tough."
Leafs forward Tim Connolly leads all Toronto players with 24 points in 36
career games against Washington. He has a goal and an assist in two tilts
versus the Caps this season.
02/25 10:46:39 ET