Pregame #20: Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets

Washington Capitals (11-7-1) at Winnipeg Jets (8-9-3)
Location:  Verizon Center

Time:  7:00 PM
TV: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!)
Radio:  1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Previous Games:
Nov 17, 2011 WAS@WPG, 1-4 L
Games Remaining:
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

Will the Russians strike tonight?

The Washington Capitals arrested their fall on Monday night, snapping a dreadful streak with a hard-fought 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.  Despite the prior streak of futility, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau still became the fastest coach in NHL history to 200 wins.  It also happened to be Jason Chimera’s 600th career game.  The Caps were able to get their powerplay going (despite allowing 2 shorthanded goals ) and killed all the Phoenix powerplays, and they managed it all without Alexander Semin, who was a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie season.  Nicklas Backstrom led the charge with a goal and an assist, and even Alexander Ovechkin ended a 4-game pointless streak.  The the effort level restored, all signs are pointing up for the Caps.  The team will also be eager to avenge their 4-1 loss last week in Winnipeg, so look for an extra helping of motivation from the team tonight.

The Winnipeg Jets have been on a tear for the past week, winning their last three games convincingly, outscoring the Lightning, Capitals and Flyers by a combined score of 15-7.  Young goalie Ondrej Pavelec has authored all 3 victories and should start in net tonight, too, as the Jets kick off a 3-game road trip.  Everything seems to be going right for them in this stretch, too, as 10 players have scored, the powerplay has converted 6 of 15 chances (40%) and the penalty kill has stopped all but 2 of the last 19 powerplays (89.5%).  Not even injuries have slowed them down:  veteran defender Dustin Byfuglien has picked up the slack for the injured Toby Enstrom and was named the #1 star, #3 star, and #1 star of the past three games, posting 2 goals and 5 points in the process.  The Caps will have to make their luck tonight by outworking their opponent, as it seems the Jets are getting all the bounces right now.

Injury Report:   Capitals’ D Mike Green (groin), D John Erskine (shoulder), and RW Jay Beagle (head) are out.
-For the Jets, 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:

Fehr Factor:   After missing most of the season’s first two months recovering from shoulder surgery, RW Eric Fehr played his first game of the season on Saturday night.  With the first game out of the way, the Manitoba native now gets set for his first game against his former team tonight.  You can bet the 6’4, 212-lb power forward is looking for his first goal as a Jet, and his linemates Jason Jaffray and Alex Burmistrov are more than capable of setting him up.  Look for the former first-round pick to be a major presence in front of the Caps’ cage tonight.

Ward’s Charge: RW Joel Ward provided the spark last night that Alexander Semin couldn’t, creating three goals and drawing a tripping penalty.  Even though Ward only showed up on the scoresheet for one assist, he forced the turnover that led to Carlson’s goal and drive the net to give Cody Eakin space to fire his shot home.  Always sound in his fundamentals and defensive zone play, Ward has become a true 2-way threat for the Caps.  If he keeps up the strong play, look for him to see more time on the Caps’ top 2 lines.

Raising Kane:  The Winnipeg Jets are developing a Capital Killer.  LW Evander Kane is quickly becoming the next Erik Cole, Jon Sim, or Sean Bergenheim, players who seem to produce a disproportionate amount of their offense against Washington.  In his last 92 games since the start of last season, the 20-year old Vancouver-native has scored 7 of his 27 goals and 2 of his 4 game winners in just 5 games against the Caps, never mind 2 assists.  If Kane extends his points streak to 6 games, it will be time to raise our collective fists in rage and indignation against this baby-faced wonder every time he faces the boys in red.