Pregame #72: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Washington Capitals (41-20-10) at Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8)
Joe Louis Arena
7:30 PM
TV:   Local:  CSN-DC HD (Game On!), National: Versus HD
Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Last Meeting: Jan 19, 2010 DET@WSH 3-2 W
Former Red Wings: Mike Knuble (1996-98)
The Enemy:  Our Bloguin Partner: Nightmare on Helm Street, Winning It In Motown

The Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals face off against the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings in a clash of titans.  In the only meeting of the two teams this season, the Caps come into Motown on a 9-game winning streak and show no signs of slowing down, despite their injury issues.  The Red Wings have won 2 straight to right the ship after a 4-game losing streak to open March.  These two teams split the season series last year, with each team claiming a 3-2 victory.  The Caps and the Wings are both gearing up for the playoffs, so expect a tight-checking game with playoff intensity.  Sit back and enjoy this one, this amount of talent on the ice all at once is rare. 

Injury Report:  Capitals C Jason Arnott (undisclosed) is not on the trip and is listed as week-to-week.  Defensemen Mike Green (head) and Tom Poti (groin) are on long-term injured reserve. G Semyon Varlamov (knee) is out.  C Nicklas Backstrom (hand) is questionable.  RW Eric Fehr left last night’s game in the second period. 
-The Red Wings expect to be without RW Patrick Eaves (lower body).  D Brian Rafalski (back spasms) is questionable.

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What to watch for:

Double Tre Kronor: The Detroit Red Wings boast a half-dozen Swedes on their roster that have all played 60+ games this season.  The two most notable are Henrik Zetterberg, whose 69 points rank him in the NHL’s top-10, and 6-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, who is showing no signs of slowing down at age 40.  With 55 points, Lidstrom trails the NHL defensemen scoring leaders by just 1 point.  Tomas Holmstron, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, and Niclas Kronwall are the other 4 on the Wings.  While fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom may not take to the ice tonight, this will be Marcus Johansson‘s first time playing against Lidstrom the Legend.  Look for him to be energized tonight, especially after posting 2 goals in Montreal last night. 

Slumping Russian Comrades:   Neither Alexander Ovechkin nor Pavel Datsyuk have had the kind of success they would have hoped for when the season began.  Datsyuk missed 19 games earlier in the season and this will be the first time he will have played fewer than 75 games since 2002-03.  Ovechkin has not been himself for most of this season, and he will be hard pressed to reach 40 goals after 3 straight 50 goal seasons.  He seems to be heating up at the right time, though.  Datsyuk, with 56 points in 50 games, and Ovechkin with 74 points in 71 games, should be ready for the postseason, though, as both teams are expected to advance deep into spring.

Brads in the Saddle:  Matt Bradley scored the Capitals first goal of the game against the Red Wings both times they faced off.  Brads has not produced the offense this year like he did last year, but he is still quite capable of causing a ruckus on the forecheck and in front of the opposition’s goal.  Along with Boyd Gordon, who assisted on both of Bradley’s goals last year, look for the Caps’ fourth line to make a difference again tonight with high-energy play and maybe even a goal.