Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Caps/Canadians Preview

Washington Capitals (23-27-9, 55 points)
Montreal Canadians (30-25-6, 66 points)

Television: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WTNT 570-AM
Gametime: 7:30 PM ET

It's a tale of two teams who are limping their way into Tuesday night's game. As much as the Capitals have been struggling lately, there's a team that just may be hurting even more right now.

The Montreal Canadians recently snapped a six game losing streak with a 3-2 win in Columbus on Sunday. It was their first road win since January 18th when they defeated the Thrashers in Atlanta 4-1. They are a team that in the middle of December was battling the Buffalo Sabres for the Northeast Division lead. Since then, they have gone into a complete tailspin. After defeating the Caps at the Verizon Center on December 27th, they have compiled a record of 8-16-1 and now find themselves clinging to their playoff lives. Entering tonight's game, they are in a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders, who ended the Penguins 16 regulation unbeaten streak yesterday.

They have also recently lost their All-Star goaltender Cristobal Huet who will have surgery on his injured left hamstring. With backup David Aebischer failing to adequately fill in, the Canadians hopes now rest on the shoulders of rookie Jaroslav Halak who was an AHL All-Star this season. He had a 2.00 goals against average, along with a .932 save percentage in 28 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The Caps have their own problems heading into tonight's game. They are riding a 1-11-1 streak in their last 13 road games. While their defensive play has improved as of late, their offense has completely disappeared. Since their 7-3 win against Carolina on January 27th, they have averaged just 2.11 goals a game over the last 9 contests. Alex Ovechkin is in the middle of the biggest slump of his short career, recording just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 7 games. The Caps could sure use a breakthrough performance from him to spark their offense.

Their could be a feel good story tonight. Backup Frederic Cassivi should get his first NHL start of the season in his return to his native Quebec. The 31-year old Cassivi was called up last week after Kolzig suffered a left knee injury in practice. He was an essential part of the Hershey Bears Calder Cup Championship run last season, and had a 15-7-4 record this year at the time of his recall.

With a little magic from Cassivi, and a little offense from Ovechkin, hopefully the Caps can get a W against a struggling Montreal team.

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