Pregame #4: Washington Capitals vs. Ottawa Senators

Washington Capitals (3-0-0) vs. Ottawa Senators (1-3-0)
Verizon Center
7:00 PM
TV: Local: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), CBC
Games Remaining:
Dec  3, 2011 OTT@WSH, 7:00 PM
Dec  7, 2011 WSH@OTT, 7:00 PM
Feb 22, 2012 WSH@OTT, 7:00 PM
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  D Sergei Gonchar (654 GP, 1994-2004)
Former Senators:  Brooks Laich (1 GP, 2004)
Opposing Viewpoints:
Our Bloguin Partner: The 6th Sens, Silver Seven

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The Washington Capitals bring a perfect record home with them from Pittsburgh for a Saturday night matchup with Canadian capital team, the Ottawa Senators. The Caps have won all 3 games in overtime or the shootout, and their special teams have been inconsistent, but they keep finding ways to win.  With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, Tomas Vokoun is likely to get the start again.  Vokoun redeemed himself in Pittsburgh after a shaky first game and should fare well again against a struggling Senators team. 

The rebuilding Senators are lucky to have one win after allowing a league-high 21 goals in their first 4 games.  With a 28th-ranked penalty kill (68.2%) and atrocious defense, the only reason the Senators can stay in hockey games is with offense.  Having the 3rd-ranked powerplay (31.6%) has helped the Senators to a 3.0 goals per game average, and their big-name players are producing.  Look for the Caps to try to get on the Senators early and try to run up the score before Jason Spezza (4 points), Daniel Alfredsson (3 points), and Milan Michalek (5 points) find their footing on offense. 

Injury Report: Capitals’ D John Erskine (shoulder surgery) is out.  G Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and RW Jay Beagle (face) are questionable.
-For the Senators, C Jesse Winchester (shoulder) and D Matt Carkner (knee) are on injured reserve.  

Three Things To Watch For:

Bäck in Action:  After a sub-par season, Nicklas Backstrom is making up for lost time with 4 assists in 3 games this season.  Backis also had an excellent goal scoring chance against the Penguins on Thursday.  He has assisted on all 3 powerplay goals, two of which were in overtime, and on Alex Ovechkin’s even-strength goal in Pittsburgh.  If Backstrom can keep up his excellent play, he will be the key cog in what should be a dominant Capitals attack this season. 

Defense Disconnect:  The Senators are trying to break in a large group of young players this season, including three defensemen 21 or younger and another who’s 24.  Those 4 defensemen have played a combined 281 games.  Meanwhile, the other 3 defensemen are 33, 34, and 37, and only Chris Phillips, 33, could be considered to be in his prime.  If the Caps can keep their top forwards away from matching up against Phillips, they should have a field day on offense.

The Plumbers:  For several seasons, the knock on the Washington Capitals was a lack of presence in front of the opposing net.  While the Caps have their share of pretty goals, the Caps have been scoring greasy goals in bunches this season.  Mike Knuble scored by crashing the crease in Pittsburgh and the defenseman kicked the puck in.  Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin scored on deflections, and Matt Hendricks screened the goalie on a Dennis Wideman goal.  If the Caps can keep making life difficult for opposing netminders, they should stay close to their 4.0 goals per game average.