Pregame #76: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Washington Capitals (43-22-10) at Montreal Canadiens (40-28-7)
The Bell Centre
7:00 PM
TV: CSN-DC HD (Game On!), CBC
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Previous Games:
Dec 28, 2010 MTL@WSH 3-0 W
Feb 1, 2011 MTL@WSH 2-3 SOL
Mar 15, 2011 WSH@MTL 4-2 W
Games Remaining: None
Friendly Faces of Former Capitals:  Jeff Halpern (1999-2006)
Sons of Former Capitals:  Tom Pyatt, son of Nelson Pyatt (1974-76)
The Enemy:  Eyes on the Prize

The Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals make their last visit to Quebec tonight in what is expected to be a tough game.  Not only are the Caps dealing with injuries and playing their second game in as many nights in as many Canadian cities, but they also had to contend with the horrid officiating of Kelly Sutherland and Stepahne Auger last night in Ottawa as the Caps fell 2-0. 

The frustrated Canadiens are coming off consecutive shutout losses.  The Habs were obliterated 7-0 by the Boston Bruins on Thursday in the first re-match since Zdeno Chara broke Max Pacioretty’s neck.  The Habs are 2-4 in their last 6 games overall, not a good enough pace to cement a decent playoff seeding. 

Injury Report:  The Caps will be without LW Alexander Ovechkin (undisclosed) and C Jason Arnott (lower body), but both are expected to participate in practice on Monday.  Defensemen Mike Green (head) and Tom Poti (groin) are on long-term injured reserve.  RW Eric Fehr (shoulder) is day-to-day. 
Les Canadiens de Montréal are expecting to be without Défenseur Andrei Markov (knee), Défenseur Josh Gorges (knee), Défenseur Jaroslav Spacek (lower body), and Ailier Gauche Max Pacioretty (broken neck).  Défenseur Alexandre Picard (lower body) is questionable.

See How the Caps Will Upend the Habs!

Three Things to Watch For:

Sub-Par:  Since recording a hat trick on Sunday, Habs rookie défenseur P.K. Subban has not been playing so well.  He is a -3 over his last two games, had no points in the two shutout losses, and took an interference penalty.  Subban paces all rookie defensemen with 11 goals and 35 points, but he must be more disciplined, as he also leads rookie D with 104 penalty minutes.  If the Caps can get under Subban’s skin again tonight, they may be able to get a powerplay or two out of it and keep him from being effective on offense. 

They’re Not Saying Boo, They’re Saying Knuuuuuble:  With a two consecutive 3-point nights last week, 38-year old Mike Knuble is playing like a 35-year old again.  He seems fully recovered mentally from the puck in the face he took earlier this season; he is crashing the net with reckless abandon and is carrying more of the leadership role with Ovechkin and Arnott ailing.  With his eighth straight 20-goal campaign on the books, look for Knuble to pad his stats against the Habs, who he has scored 2 powerplay goals against this season. 

Courtesy RMNB

The Price is Ripe:  Canadiens goalie Carey Price is having a very good season overall, but he has stunk lately.  Price is 1-4 in his last five games with a 4.14 GAA and a 0.883 Save Percentage, and hehas been pulled twice.  If the Caps can crash the goal early, they should be able to shake his confidence even more.  Playing with an early lead will be key, especially with Semyon Varlamov playing his first game in over a month.