The two clubs are facing each other for the first time in almost two full calender years and for the first time in Glendale since Valentine's Day 2011. The Caps haven't won in Phoenix since Wayne Gretzky was admiring Alex Ovechkin's ability to score while sprawled out on the ice.
Teams at a Glance
|Washington Capitals||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Points||18 (2nd Metropolitan)||24 (3rd Pacific)|
|Goals Per Game||3.06 (10th)||3.12 (9th)|
|Goals Allowed Per Game||2.75 (18th)||3.06 (26th)|
|Power Play Percentage||28.1% (1st)||19% (12th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||90.3% (1st)||78.8% (23rd)|
D.C.'s hockey club comes into town riding a four game winning streak. The Capitals have been amazing on special teams and well below average at even strength. They struggled out of the gate, but have played better as of late. Ovechkin has carried the team on his shoulders. He's scored 13 goals in the 14 games he's played in, with seven of the goals coming with the man-advantage. Former Norris trophy candidate Mike Green is having the opposite kind of season. He's been a non-factor offensively and his play in his own zone has been downright terrible at times. At times, he's struggled to stay on the ice. The Caps recent run of good play has coincided with a number of changes in the lineup including moving veteran forward Martin Erat to the team's top line.
The Coyotes had their five game winning streak snapped Wednesday night in Anaheim. The last time the Desert Dogs out shot an opponent was the Calgary Flames on October 22. If there is a team to turn the trend around against it's the Caps. If there was a place to turn it around at it would be at home. Phoenix has a 7-0-1 record at Jobing.com Arena this season. Phoenix captain Shane Doan has lit the lamp five times in the team's past seven games.
3 Keys To The Game
- Don't take penalties. The Caps have the number one power play in the league. 'Nuff said.
- Set plays off faceoffs in the offensive zone. The Caps win less than half of their draws. The Yotes need to take advantage of this weakness.
- Win the battle at even strength. Neither team has shown themselves to be a great team 5 on 5, but the Yotes are a bit better squad from a possession standpoint.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Marcus Johansson||16||2||12||14||-3||0||1||0||1||19|
Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are the obvious choices, but we'll go with their former linemate here. Caps head coach Adam Oates recently moved the young Swede back to his natural center position. The move has paid dividends so far. Johansson has put up a goal and an assist in each of the team's last two games.
|2013 - Lauri Korpikoski||14||1||1||2||-4||8||0||0||0||22|
The Korpedo appears to enjoy playing the team from D.C. He has scored five goals and one assist in six career games against Washington. The Yotes will need his penalty killing acumen as much as his scoring abilities in this contest.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Braden Holtby||13||693||7||5||30||2.60||399||369||.925||1|The Caps have announced Holtby and backup Michael Neuvirth will split this weekends starts. No word yet on who will get which game so we will go with the guy who has been the starter this season. Holtby, like Phoenix starter Mike Smith, had a bit of a rough start to the season, though his teammates poor play in the defensive zone was as much to blame as he was. He's been a on a roll this past week. He's had a combined .960 save percentage in his last three starts.
Update (11:53am) - It appears Neuvirth will be in goal tonight, so let's take a look at Neuvy.
|2013 - Michal Neuvirth||5||280||2||2||13||2.79||149||136||.913||0|
Washington has back to back games this weekend, so head coach Adam Oates has deceided to start his backup netminder tonight with starter Braden Holtby likely between the pipes against Colorado on Sunday. The order probably has less to do with Oates thoughts on the Coyotes and more to do with Neuvirth getting shelled by the Avs in October. The second stringer has a .932 save percentage in his last two appearances. His last appeared in the Caps 3-2 shootout win against the Panthers last Saturday.
|2013 - Mike Smith||15||856||9||3||41||2.87||484||443||.915||0|
He's the starter and his bobblehead is being given out to the first 10,000 people at the game, so we're assuming he's a lock to start, barring a Dustin Penner like breakfast at home on Saturday morning. This will be Smith's first time facing the Caps in a Phoenix uniform. Smith has a combined .941 save percentage in his last four games.
Former Capital Jeff Halpern (upper body) and David Schlemko are expected to be back in the lineup for the Coyotes. Defensemen Derek Morris (lower body) and forward Radim Vrbata (lower body) will likely be game time decisions. Morris has missed significant time on and off this season due to various ailments, while Vrbata sustained an injury during the second period Phoenix's game against Anaheim on Wednesday evening.
Update (11:53am): Vrbata & Morris have been ruled out for tonight's contest.
Tailgating begins at 2 p.m. The game starts at 6 p.m. (MST) on Saturday night in Glendale. The game can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona and heard on 92.3 KTAR.