Monday, January 14, 2008

Senators/Caps Preview

Ottawa Senators at Washington Capitals
Tuesday, January 14th, 2008
Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
Last Meeting: 1/1/2008: Capitals win 6-3

The Capitals look to both get back over .500 on their current homestand and get back to the winning ways they've become accustomed to under Coach Bruce Boudreau against the Senators tonight. With a win the Capitals would complete an unexpected sweep of the season series against the Eastern Conference's best team and while it might seem improbable, so have each of Caps' wins against the Senators so far this season - while I wouldn't necessarily expect the Capitals to win, I wouldn't bet against them either.

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About the Opponent

Ottawa Senators (29-11-4, 62 points, first in the Northeast Division, first in the Eastern Conference)

Team Leaders
Goals: Daniel Alfredsson (29)
Assists: Jason Spezza (38)
Points: Daniel Alfredsson (59)
Plus/Minus: Dany Heatley (+31); active: Jason Spezza (20)
Penalty Minutes: Chris Neil (114)
Fights: tie - Brian McGrattan, Chris Neil (6)

Betcha Didn't Know...
Only one Senators player, Alexander Nikulin, has a negative plus/minus rating. Nikulin has played in just two games for the Senators this season and is -2.

Random Senators Statistic
Brian McGrattan sees 2:31 of ice time per game and spends 1:18 per game in the penalty box. McGrattan has as many games with four or more minutes of ice time as with less than one minute (six), including a season low of six seconds against Buffalo on January 4th. And no, that's not a typo.

Keys to the Game

Weather the storm early. The Senators are the best team in the Eastern Conference points-wise and will be desperately trying to avoid being embarrassed by being swept by the Capitals for the season, so they'll come out very strong. The Capitals need to keep things simple at the start and frustrate Ottawa, rather than letting themselves be outgunned.

Exploit the Capitals defense. With John Erskine, Jeff Schultz and Milan Jurcina all playing the Capitals defense lacks mobility; the Senators are fast and can move the puck well so they will be looking to take advantage of the Capitals' slow defensemen to create offense.

Players to Watch

Milan Jurcina - Jurcina, a 6'4'', 235-pound defenseman, had zero hits in the Capitals last game and has been a plus player only once since December 29th (five games). The Capitals biggest weakness tonight is going to be their defense's poor foot speed, butSchultz helps negate his mediocre skating by playing smart and positionally sounds; Erskine helps negate his by playing and extremely physical game. If Jurcina can't find a plus to offset his skating he could be a big enough liability to cost the Caps two points.

Martin Gerber/Ray Emery - During the last two games these teams have played the Gerber/Emery tandem has allowed 13 goals on 54 shots (.759 save percentage). The Senators will need strong goaltending if they hope to stop the Capitals' offensive weapons.

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