Pregame #66: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars

Washington Capitals (44-13-8) vs. Dallas Stars (28-24-12)
Verizon Center (25-3-3 at home)
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Versus
Radio: 820AM, 1500AM, 106.7 FM and XM
Previous Meetings: (none)
Remaining Meetings: (none)

The Dallas Stars head to the Verizon Center for the first time since November 30, 2006 to face a Washington Capitals squad that is on the hump of its 5-game home stand. DC boasts an 8-4-2 record against the Western Conference this season with the Blackhawks, Flames, and Blue Jackets remaining on their schedule. Of these Western Conference foes Dallas is the remaining member of the Pacific Division, against whom the Caps have gone 3-2-0 against thus far this season. The Stars have been a tale of two teams bookending the break, accumulating a  6-2-1 record before the Olympics but dropping three straight since. They’ve also forgotten to pick up their offense and defense from the dry cleaners, allowing at least five goals in each of the three losses, and only managing to score multiple goals in one game, being outscored 17-5.
There is currently no word on who will start between the pipes for the Caps tonight, but in my opinion (and the Great Zamboni’s, for that matter) Jose Theodore should get the nod. Theo is 22-7-6 this season, and is 12-0-2 in his last 14 appearances – boasting a 2.38 GAA and a .929 sv % through those games. He’s playing with a purpose, and it’s reflected in each start. On the other side of the rink, the Stars will possibly look to newly acquired Kari Lehtonen, who in his 2 games with Dallas is 0-1-0 and has a 4.90 GAA and .840 sv %. Ouch.

While “Shut-the-door” has been strong, the four offensive Olympians from the Caps roster (Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Tomas Fleischmann, and Nicklas Backstrom) have not netted a goal since returning from Vancouver, and have only mustered 3 assists. Ovie has now gone six straight games without a goal, a season high. While the Capitals aren’t too horribly worried, going 3-1-2 during the drought, it’d be nice to see this issue straightened out sooner than later.

With a win tonight, the Caps can add more distance to their Southeast Division lead (30 points), Eastern Conference lead (12 points) and NHL lead (3 points) – while extending a franchise record 13-game home win streak. At 96 points on the season, and 17 games remaining, DC has the 7th most points in their history and 6th most wins (43).

One final note… anyone else notice how the Capitals have followed the Penguins schedule so far coming out of the break? Eerie.