Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Limping Canadiens Host Red-Hot Capitals

imageWashington’s Michal Neuvirth faces off against Montreal’s Carey Price (neither pictured here) Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.

The Pierre Gauthier era with the Montreal Canadiens (28-26-6) gets it’s first test Wednesday as they host the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals (41-12-6).

The Capitals are blasting through their opponents, much like the winter storm systems that are currently passing through Washington.

The team is on a 14-game winning streak. Their Superbowl Sunday come from behind victory, over the Pittsburgh Penguins, was their second over the defending Stanley Cup champions during the streak.

Washington has outscored their opponents by a combined score of 68-33, and all but three victories were against Eastern Conference opponents. Of those games, all but one (Toronto) was against a team in the hunt for a playoff spot.

A win over Montreal on Wednesday would set a new franchise unbeaten record that has stood since the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. The NHL record is 17, set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Nobody wants to talk about it because we’re superstitious,” Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau said.

“Until you're perfect you've got stuff to work on and we're far from perfect. We've had to come from behind in an awful lot of games lately.

“We're not either getting off on the right track or taking it too easy or we're making to many mistakes. We have to get better in a lot of ways right now.

“The minute I relax, is the minute they relax. Any team we're playing right now is giving us their best effort."

Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin leads the charge with 14 goals, 15 assists and a plus-18 rating during the streak. The two-time Hart Trophy winner has been kept off the scoreboard just once (vs. NY Islanders) during the 14-game run.

Washington is currently carrying three goalies on their three game, pre-Olympic road trip; Semyon Varlamov, Jose Theodore and Michal Neuvirth.

While Montreal native Theodore tied a franchise consecutive win record(10) on Sunday, the team’s Wednesday morning skate points to Neuvirth (3-0-0, 1.20, .967 in his last 4GP).

With Varlamov back in the lineup for the first time since Dec 7, Neuvirth is expected to be sent to Hershey (AHL) during the Olympics.

“It’s all good when they’re all playing great. I assume they all will. Neuvy and Theo have definitely been playing great,” Boudreau said. “With Varly (out since Dec 7), it’s sort of a wait and see scenario.”

“I think it’s remarkable,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges on the Capitals streak. “To string 14 together and not have one night where you don’t quite show up, or one when the pucks don’t bounce your way, or get a couple bad ones scored against you is quite impressive.”

Montreal will be looking to get back in the win column after being shutout Sunday afternoon by the Boston Bruins.

It will be the team’s first game for new GM Gauthier since taking over the reigns from Bob Gainey on Monday.

The Canadiens got some bad news on Tuesday, when it was revealed that defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron will miss at least six weeks with a new injury.

Bergeron has 10 goals and 14 assists in 51 games this season, with 16 points (6 goals) coming off the power play.

Forward Benoit Pouliot (14 points in 20 games with Mtl) is also out until at least the beginning of March with an upper-body injury.

The duo join Mike Cammalleri and Andre Kostitsyn on the team’s injured reserve list.

Battling injuries in the 2009-10 season is nothing new for the Canadiens and as they look to end Washington’s run. Despite missing key players throughout the season, they still remain in the thick of the battle for a playoff spot.

“We’ve played against them (Washington) with a banged-up lineup in two of our games against them, and got three out of four points against them,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin.

“The (Olympic) break will be good for us, he added noting the upcoming league shutdown will give players time to recuperate.

“Andre (Kostitsyn) was on skates for the first time today. Hopefully he’ll be back with us after the break. But before that, we have three huge games, starting with the Eastern Conference leaders.”

In the three head-to-head meetings this season, Montreal is 1-1-1 against the Capitals, and have limited Ovechkin to just a goal and an assist in the Capitals 4-3 shootout win on Nov 27.

“Montreal has given us fits all year, first of all,” said Boudreau. “They make a management change, they’re going to want to impress the new GM, and they lost the last game at home.”

Goaltender Carey Price has started all three games against Washington ( 2.95 GAA .910 SvPct) and will get the call on Wednesday night, despite the exceptional play of late from Jaroslav Halak.

“Carey’s been working extremely hard, I think he’s been very sharp at practice, so it’s a great opportunity for him to be in there,” Martin said.

Probable Starting Lineups




Mathieu Darche Tomas Plekanec Sergei Kostitsyn
Tom Pyatt Scott Gomez Brian Gionta
Maxim Lapierre Ben Maxwell David Desharnais
Travis Moen Glen Metropolit Matt D’Agostini


Defence Pairings


Andre Markov   Ryan O’Byrne
Roman Hamrlik   Jaroslav Spacek
Hal Gill   Josh Georges




S- Carey Price   Jaroslav Halak




Alexander Ovechkin Niklas Backstrom Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich Tomas Fleischmann Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera Brendan Morrison Eric Fehr
Boyd Gordon David Steckel Matt Bradley


Defence Pairings


Jeff Schultz   Mike Green
Shoane Morrisonn   Tom Poti
John Erskine   Brian Pothier


S- Michal Neuvirth   Jose Theodore

No comments: