Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gameday: vs. Montreal, Feb. 1

John Carlson drives on Carey Price in December.
The Washington Capitals return to game action tonight as they welcome the Montreal Canadiens to Verizon Center for a primetime showdown between two teams with big time goals for the rest of this season and the playoffs.  The Capitals are coming off of a frustrating 1-0 loss last Wednesday to the Thrashers, and are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 63 standings points to their name in 51 games played. The Habs were smoked by the Flyers in their last game before the break, 5-2, but are nonetheless in position to make the playoffs, standing seventh in the East with 59 points in 50 games.  In their only other game this season, the Caps shut out the Canadiens 3-0, with the Capital goals comeing from Jay Beagle, Mike Green, and Alex Ovechkin.

For the Canadiens, there are no real surprises, as bench boss Jacques Martin will roll with goaltender Carey Price for the league-leading 45th time this season. Price, after a rather up and down (but mostly down) season last year, has rebounded terrifically in Montreal and is tied for the league lead in wins (24).  The Habs are still missing defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, both lost for the season with ACL tears, and sniper Michael Cammalleri, who has missed the last two weeks with a separated shoulder.  Despite this rash of injuries, however, the Habs play smart team defense and certainly will not provide an easy target for the boys in red.

On the Capitals' side, Semyon Varlamov will start tonight's game after his 25-save shutout of the Canadiens earlier this season.  Braden Holtby has not been recalled by the Caps, indicating that Michal Neuvirth is well enough to back up Varly tonight; certainly a positive sign.  The good news ends there, however, as it looks as though Alexander Semin will not return tonight despite practicing fully yesterday.  Bruce Boudreau did call him a "game time thing", but knowing Sasha, I highly doubt that he will play unless he is 1000% healthy.  Semin has been sorely missed by the Capitals on the offensive end recently, and his presence will be key to their scoring for the rest of the year.  To compensate, Jay Beagle has been called up from Hershey and will likely play if Semin does not.  That means that DJ King will be a healthy scratch along with Tyler Sloan, who is now officially back on the active roster.  Finally, Eric Fehr and Tom Poti both worked out on the ice prior to the morning skate with the Caps' strength and conditioning coach. Neither played will return this week, but they are improving and should be back within the next two weeks.

The Capitals will honor Dino Ciccarelli prior to tonight's game, which is the reason for the delayed start.  The 2010 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame put up 112 goals during over his three-plus seasons as a right winger with the Capitals in the early nineties and is widely regarded as the best player in the history of the NHL to have never won a Stanley Cup.  Puck drop for this one is 7:37-ish.  Check back later.

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