Pregame #10: Washington Capitals vs. Anaheim Ducks

Washington Capitals (7-2-0) vs. Anaheim Ducks (5-5-1)
Verizon Center
Time: 7:30 PM
TV: Local: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), Versus: VS (HD)
Familiar Faces of Former Caps:
Andrew Gordon
Our Bloguin Partner:
 On the Duck Pond

Read on!

The Washington Capitals return home empty-handed after a two-game Western Canadian road swing.  After winning the first 7 games of the season, the Caps have lost 2 straight, due in no small part to the absence of defenseman Mike Green.  The Caps’ offense is playing well, led by a newly energized Alex Ovechkin who seems to have gotten the message that he is most dangerous in space without the puck when Nicklas Backstrom has control of the biscuit, which is how he scored both of his goals in Vancouver.  If the Caps can shore up their defense and if the goalies can recover from a 7-goal clunker, this could be a very exciting game tonight.  

The Anaheim Ducks have one of the most exciting and dynamic forward lines in hockey.  Last season, RW Corey Perry led the league with 50 goals and was named MVP.  His linemates didn’t do too bad either, and there’s no reason to expect Bobby Ryan won’t have another 30 goal season or that center Ryan Getzlaf won’t have a point per game again. The Ducks also have an excellent second line anchored by aging Finnish phenoms Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.  With strong goaltending from Jonas Hiller and last season’s leading defensive scorer, Lubomir Visnovsky, the Ducks are a force to be reckoned with.

Injury Report: Capitals’ D John Erskine (shoulder surgery) is a possible addition to the lineup. RW Jay Beagle (consussion) and D Mike Green (ankle) are out.
-For the Ducks, LW Jason Blake (wrist) and D Matt Smaby (thumb) are on injured reserve.

Three Things To Watch For:

First time’s the charm?:  The Washington Capitals announced the recall of C Cody Eakin today.  If Eakin plays tonight, it would be his first NHL game, but won’t be his last.  Eakin, who already owns a Calder Cup ring, has 3 goals and 8 points in 10 games in Hershey along with a +3 rating and only 2 PIM.  Eakin has the speed, grit, and drive to stick with the big club and the skill to be a difference-maker. If Eakin can make the most of his slight frame, we can expect to see the young redhead flying down the ice more often in DC.

El Gordo:  Ducks RW Andrew Gordon has fond memories of DC.  The Capitals were the team that drafted him in 2004 and gave him his first chance to show what he could do in the NHL.  While most of his time was spent in Hershey buried on the depth chart, Gordo played 12 games for the Caps, posting two points. He played well enough to earn a contract from the Ducks this summer and he made the team out of camp.  The Halifax native had a nifty assist in the NHL Premiere in Helsinki, but that remains his only point of the season.  He should be due for a big game and he should have plenty of motivation tonight.  Welcome back, Gordo.

Johnny Come Lately?:  It may be wishful thinking, but John Erskine participated in practice alongside Jeff Schultz today instead of injury recall Sean Collins.  This could be excellent news for the Caps, who played the first nine games without Erskine and the last two without Green, prompting the recall of the right-handed Collins.  Collins sits 8th on the depth chart for a reason and was exposed by two fast and talented Western Canadian teams.  If Erskine is available, he brings not only an immediate talent upgrade to the defense, but an in-your-face attitude and physical dimension that the team has been lacking.