Pregame #17: Washington Capitals at Winnipeg Jets

Washington Capitals (10-5-1) at Winnipeg Jets (6-9-3)
MTS Centre
Time:  8:30 PM Eastern, 7:30 PM Central
TV: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!)
Radio:  1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Games Remaining:
Nov 23, 2011 WPG@WAS, 7:00 PM
Dec 15, 2011 WAS@WPG, 8:30 PM
Feb  9, 2012 WPG@WAS, 7:00 PM
Mar 16, 2012 WAS@WPG, 8:30 PM
Mar 23, 2012 WPG@WAS, 7:00 PM
Familiar Faces of Former Caps:  RW Eric Fehr (230 GP, 2005-2011)
The view from the other side: Arctic Ice Hockey

Things could get hairy tonight!

The Washington Capitals continue their 3-game road trip tonight with their first trip to Winnipeg since the mid-1990s.  The Capitals are coming off a disappointing loss to the Nashville Predators in which they held their opponents scoreless for all but the last minute of the game, where they scored to first goal, and where they got an excellent goaltending performance from Tomas Vokoun.  In the end, they were unraveled by mental mistakes and a lack of effort, not their systems play talent.  It has been a telling theme this season, and if the Caps don’t start displaying the necessary passion for the game through 60 minutes, it won’t just be the Florida Panthers that are tied with them in the Southeast Division at 21 standings point, Tampa Bay is just 3 points back, too. 

Minus a major meltdown, the one team in the division the Caps don’t need to worry about catching them is the Winnipeg Jets.  with all the excitement surrounding the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Western Canada, the Winnipeg fans are prepared to give the Jets a mulligan for a bad season, and they’ll need it.  The Thrashers have some young talent in their system and lots of injuries right now, but with all of the upheaval and roster turnover, it will ne a while before this team gets good enough to challenge for the division lead, and it will be after they’ve left the Southeast.  In the meantime, there’s still enough talent on the roster to make the Caps look bad if they fall asleep yet again. 

Injury Report:   Capitals’ D Mike Green (groin) and RW Jay Beagle (head) are out.
-For the Jets, RW Eric Fehr (shoulder), D Tobias Enstrom (collarbone),  D Randy Jones (ankle), D Ron Hainsey (upper body), and D Derek Meech (lower body) are out. D Brett Festerling (upper body) is day-to-day.

Three Things To Watch For:

Eager Eakin:  Despite his limited ice time, Capitals rookie F Cody Eakin has been producing offensively for the Caps, with a goal and 4 points in 6 games.  The Winnipeg-native now gets his first chance to play in front of his home fans, so expect the red-haired speedster to make plenty of noise tonight alongside fellow young speedster, Marcus Johansson.  Despite his tender age, Eakin should quickly earn the trust of the coaching staff, as he also has a +4 rating and no penalties in his 6 NHL games.

The Other Other Alex:  The most talented player on the ice for the Atlanta Thrashers is slick sophomore F Alexander Burmistrov.  Drafted 8th overall in 2010, Burmistrov had a less than stellar rookie season last year as an 18-year old, with just 6 goals and 20 points in 74 games in sheltered minutes.  The NHL experience is paying off, and Burmistrov has 4 goals and 11 points in 18 games this season already.  Judging by the crazy-good goal he scored against the Caps last season, this kid will be a star in the NHL sooner rather than later, so the Caps D had better take notice.

A Seminal Moment?:  Capitals RW Alexander Semin played an outstanding hockey game on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, getting 4 of his 10 shot attempts through and getting credit for a takeaway and a blocked shot.  If not for him being on the ice for an empty net goal (-1 rating) and a ticky-tack penalty, his stat line would have been even better.  Semin had a plethora of good scoring chances in the first period with new linemates Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich, and expect that trend to continue tonight.  This should be the night where Alexander Semin takes control of the game and wins it all by himself.