Pregame #57: Washington Capitals vs. Phoenix Coyotes

Washington Capitals (29-17-10) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (29-19-9)
Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Arizona
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Television:  Versus (HD)
Radio: XM, 1500AM, 820AM
Team Promotion:  Slapshot Grams for Valentine’s Day
Familiar Faces of Former Caps:
Eric Belanger (2010)
Sami Lepisto (2007-09)
Head Coach Dave Tippett (1990-92)
Sons of Former Caps:
Taylor Pyatt, Son of Nelson Pyatt (1974-76)
The Enemy:
Our Bloguin Partner: Hipchecks
Five For Howling

Tonight’s game marks the first game of a 5-game road trip for the Capitals and the second of a 3-game homestand for the Coyotes.  While the Capitals have lost 2 straight, the Coyotes have won 4 straight as they climb their way up the Pacific Division standings.  Known for their team defense, the ‘Yotes had won their last two home games by shutout before last weekend.  Their no-name offense has scored enough to keep them in the playoff hunt as the 5th seed.  The Capitals will need to play a disciplined game to win in the desert.
Update – Michal Neuvirth is expected to start tonightGame notes from Coyotes.com

New: Be sure to check out Katie’s article about former Hershey Bear Deryk Engelland on Sports Haze.

Be sure to check out Rock the Red’s interactive Schedule page.  Clicking the day of the week will link you to Rock the Red’s pregamer, the date will link you NHL.com’s scores for the day.  The opponent’s team logo or name will link you to their home page, the arena name will link you to the arena’s homepage.  Clicking the TV station will link you to their website, including the CSN+ channel finder.  Clicking the score will bring you to either a Rock the Red postgame recap or the WashingtonCaps.com Postgame recap.  At the bottom of the month, the Caps’ record is posted in a link to the NHL.com schedule for the month.  It should be everything you need to follow the Caps in their chase for the Stanley Cup.

Injury Report: The Capitals expect to be without RW Eric Fehr (shoulder) and D Tom Poti (groin).  The Coyotes will be without D David Schlemko (head).
UpdateFehr has been cleared for contact.  Poti did not make the trip.  Schlemko has been cleared for contact by the Coyotes. 

Wile E. Coyote

Don’t Fall Behind! Read On!

What to watch for:

Cool Bryz: Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is once again shutting opponents down.  The Togliatti, Russia, native has won his last 4 games, 2 by shutout, with a .961 save percentage and a 0.98 GAA.  Last year’s Vezina Trophy finalist has 23 wins and 5 shutous on the season.  The Capitals will have to make life uncomfortable for him if they want to have any chance of scoring.  Update – Bryzgalov was named NHL’s #3 Star of the week.

Courtesy of NHL.com

Power Failure: The Capitals flailing powerplay has been a major cause of concern for the team.  Too many times this year the Caps have failed to score with the extra man and lost the game.  Tonight’s game is the perfect time to get off the slide.  In their last game, the Coyotes blew a 2-0 lead when they allowed the Chicago Blackhawks to score 2 powerplay goals and force overtime.  If the Caps can get shots through from the point and attack the crease, they should have success.

Repeating Vrbatim: Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata has been on fire in his last three games. He has goals in all 3 (4 total), he scored the shootout winner on Saturday, and has been #1 or #2 star of the game in each.  His linemate, former Carolina Hurricane Ray “The Wizard” Whitney, has assisted on 5 goals in that span, including all 4 of Vrbata’s.  Vrbata was a 24-goal scorer last season and is well on his way to repeating that performance.  Expect Vrbata and Whitney to wreak havoc in the Capitals’ zone if they are not contained. 

Courtesy of NHL.com

#17 Radim Vrbata

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