|Can the Capitals keep up their recent solid play at home?|
The Washington Capitals will welcome the Edmonton Oilers to Verizon Center tonight as they look to build on their impressive play over the last twelve days. Washington comes into tonight's contest with 84 standings points in 67 games, which places them first in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference, having won their last game 2-1 in Tampa Bay. The Oilers, on the other hand, have 54 points in 67 games, which puts them last in the Northwest Division and fifteenth in the Western Conference; they fell to the Flyers last night 4-1 inside the Wells Fargo Center. This is the one and only meeting between these two teams this season.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney is expected to start veteran Nikolai Khabibulin in nets for his club, as Devan Dubnyk started and lost last night. The Bulin Wall has struggled with injury and inconsistencies this season; he has ten wins, a 3.33 GAA and a .893 Save% in 40 starts, certainly well below his standards. He is, however, very talented still and can shut anyone down when he is in his zone. In terms of injuries, the Oilers will be without rookie winger Taylor Hall, the number one overall pick last summer, and top defenseman Ray Whitney tonight. Both players are out for the season: Hall with a high ankle sprain and Whitney with ankle surgery.
For Washington, the tentative indication is that Michal Neuvirth will be able to give it a go in goal after having to leave Monday's game when a piece of his mask got stuck in his eye. Neuvirth has been a large part of the Capitals' recent surge, and has a 2.47 GAA and .914 Save% on the season. He has never faced the Oilers in his career. On the injury front, the big question is the health of Nicklas Backstrom and his broken thumb, which reportedly was in a hard cast following a visit to the doctor yesterday. However, since no word has officially come from the team, his game status is fully in the air. Besides the possible loss of Backstrom, no lineup changes are expected. That means that Tyler Sloan, Jay Beagle, and DJ King will remain scratches.
Puck drops for this one 7:09-ish. Check back this afternoon for updates from what is sure to be a very eventful and newsworthy morning skate from Kettler Capitals Iceplex. And be sure to check out my Around the NHL post from yesterday, as well as notes from yesterday's practice.