Gameday: at Toronto, Jan. 31

Alex Ovechkin needs to produce for the Capitals to have a prayer this season. (Clydeorama)

The Washington Capitals are in Toronto, Ontario this evening to take on the Maple Leafs in a critical matchup of Eastern Conference teams this evening.  The Capitals, who blew their last game in Ottawa despite leading 2-0, are 1-4-1 and have looked out of sync; they are fourth in the Southeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.  Toronto, who beat the Sabres on a last-second overtime goal from Matt Frattin on Tuesday, are 3-3, fourth in the Northeast Division, and ninth in the Conference.  This is a huge game for the Capitals as they look to prepare for the Flyers and Penguins on Friday and Sunday.

James Reimer is almost certain to start in goal for Randy Carlyle following his victorious performance in Buffalo, in which he made 29 saves.  Reimer, who started the season on the bench but has started the Leafs’ last four games, has posted a 3.04 GAA and .910 save percentage in those four games and been the backbone behind both Leafs wins he has played in.  On the injury front, the Capitals will catch a bit of break as star winger Joffrey Lupul is out for at least a few more weeks with a fractured forearm and will not play.  Fellow wing Clarke MacArthur is questionable with a finger injury; he did not play against the Sabres.

Despite a loss on Tuesday and a slight dip in form, Michal Neuvirth will get the start in goal for the fifth consecutive game.  Neuvirth has posted a 2.96 GAA and .889 save percenage this season, but like fellow goalie Braden Holtby, he has been better than his stats may indicate.  The Capitals will be missing both forward Brooks Laich and defenseman Jack Hillen this evening with suspected groin and shoulder ailments, respectively.  After a loss, a shift in the lineup seemed inevitable, and it will come in the form of Marcus Johansson entering for Mathieu Perreault.  Tom Poti and Roman Hamrlik remain scratched among defenders, meaning John Erskine and Jeff Schultz continue to get sweaters.

Puck drops 7:09-ish; no full recap from me tonight because of school commitments.  Check back for some brief analysis following the game if you are so inclined.

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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