(Sports Network) - The streaking Washington Capitals will try to boost their
playoff chances with a fifth straight win when they visit the Winnipeg Jets in
tonight's Southeast Division showdown at MTS Centre.
The Capitals have won four in a row and have recorded a point in five straight
games, giving them a 7-2-1 mark over the last 10 outings. The surge has
Washington three points behind Florida for the Southeast Division lead and
three in front of Buffalo for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final
Winnipeg, meanwhile, has won three of its last five games and is four points
behind the Capitals in both the division and conference standings.
The Caps and Jets have split four meetings this season with each team winning
a game at home and on the road. The Jets posted a 3-2 win in D.C. when the
clubs last met on Feb. 9, as Bryan Little provided the shootout winner for the
Washington won the first test of a five-game road trip Tuesday against the New
York Islanders. The Caps, who are just 13-18-3 as the guest this year, hope
they can continue to have success away from home, although they'll face tough
tests in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia before completing the swing.
The Capitals, who could get talented centerman Nicklas Backstrom back from a
concussion soon, received a scare at practice on Thursday when Russian star
Alex Ovechkin was shaken up following a collision with fellow forward Mike
Knuble. Ovechkin laid on the ice for a few minutes and left practice to be
Although Ovechkin did not return to practice, Caps head coach Dale Hunter said
the sniper will be with the team in Winnipeg and also stated that No. 8 will
suit up for tonight's important test.
Meanwhile, Backstrom, who hasn't played since Jan. 3 due to a concussion, has
been skating on his own, but it's unclear when he will be able to return to
game action. The Swedish pivot had 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 38
games before sustaining the head injury.
The Capitals are coming off a 5-4 comeback win over the Islanders. Matt
Hendricks scored in the fourth round of the shootout to eventually secure the
two points for Washington, which trailed by scores of 3-0 and 4-1 before
rallying for the victory.
Ovechkin scored twice in the comeback, making it a 4-2 game with just 53
seconds left in the second period and then tying the score at 4-4 with his
29th goal of the season at 10:15 of the third.
"We have plenty of leaders on this team and they've been speaking up," said
Washington head coach Dale Hunter. "I'm not sure of everything they said, but
it worked and we got a big two points."
Knuble and Dmitry Orlov also scored in regulation for the Caps, while Keith
Aucoin added three assists. Michal Neuvirth turned away 26 shots through
regulation and overtime.
The Jets ended a two-game slide in their last contest, posting a 5-2 win over
the previously red-hot Dallas Stars. Andrew Ladd scored two goals, leading
Winnipeg to the comfortable win over the visiting Stars, who entered the
contest with a six-game winning streak and a 10-0-1 record in 11 tests.
Nik Antropov, Evander Kane and Eric Fehr also scored, while Blake Wheeler
added a pair of assists for the Jets. Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves in the
"I think we feed off the crowd here, for sure," Ladd said. "When we get the
first goal, it seems like we get energized from that and our home record
speaks for itself."
Winnipeg has been very tough to beat on its home ice this season, posting a
22-10-4 record at the MTS Centre compared to an 11-19-4 record everywhere
else. The Jets are playing the middle test of a three-game homestand tonight
and will close the residency Sunday against Carolina.
The Sports Network