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!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gameday: vs. Winnipeg, Mar. 23

"This is going to be biggest game of the year for us." - 8
The Washington Capitals will welcome the Winnipeg Jets to Verizon Center this evening as they return home for their first home game in nearly two weeks because of a five game road trip.  Washington, who lost in a shootout last night in Philadelphia, are 5-3-2 in their last ten games and 37-30-7 overall for 81 standings points in 74 games.  That places them second in the Southeast Division, four points back of the Panthers with one more game played, and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference, one point clear of the Sabres for the last playoff spot in the East.  The Jets, who were hammered 8-4 in their last game by the Penguins and have lost two in a row, are 4-5-1 in their last ten and 34-31-8 overall for 76 standings points in 73 games.  They are therefore third in the Southeast and tenth overall in the East.  This is the sixth and final regular season meeting between these two clubs this season; the Caps are 2-2-1 in the first five.

Ondrej Pavelec should start in goal for Claude Noel, his tenth consecutive start in the Winnipeg crease.  Pavelec was pulled in his last start after allowing five goals on 24 shots to a superhuman Pittsburgh team, but overall on the year has a 27-25-7 record, 2.84 GAA, .909 save percentage, and four shutouts; he beat the Caps the last time he faced them.  Outside the crease, the Jets only have two injuries: enforcing winger Chris Thorburn is out indefinitely with a lower body injury, while forward Nik Antropov is questionable with a lower body ailment of his own.

Despite a strong performance from Braden Holtby in Philadelphia last night, I expect Michal Neuvirth to get the call in goal because Washington lost and Dale Hunter has shown an unwillingness to go with the same goalie on back to back days even after wins.  Neuvirth is 11-12-4 on the year with a 2.85 GAA, .900 save percentage, and three shutouts; he shut out the Jets the last time he faced them.  On the injury front, the Caps are still without star center Nicklas Backstrom, who is recuperating from a concussion currently.  Winger Alexander Semin, who missed Thursday night's game with a lower body injury, has to be considered questionable at best; if he does play, though, the healthy scratch among forwards is anyone's guess.  On defense, I would wager that Dmitry Orlov will return to the lineup in the stead of Jeff Schultz, while John Erskine would remain in the press box.

Puck drops 7:09-ish.  I will be in the press box tonight; as always, follow me on Twitter here for news and updates.

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