Capitals seek to capitalize on quirk of early schedule

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The Capitals had just finished mopping the ice with the Florida Panthers this past week – a team that played the night before in Tampa and was exhausted from a late flight and late arrival in Washington. And Bruce Boudreau knew it.

“We thought this was the perfect advantage for us in the scheduling,” he said. “We got a break, and if you don’t take advantage of the breaks, it’s shame on us.”

For the third time in just seven games, the Caps will face a team on the second half of a back-to-back, Saturday night when the Detroit Red Wings come to Verizon Center.

“As a home team and as what should be a fresher team, you’re trying to jump on that as much as you can,” forward Jeff Halpern said. “You always want to try to take advantage of when you’re a rested team.”

Halpern cautioned that it’s not always like what happened to the Panthers, when they were gassed and looked every bit like a team running on no sleep.

But there’s something to be said for the human effects of playing and traveling … and turning around and playing again.

“I don’t know how much weight is given to that,” Halpern said. “I’m sure there’s some for sure, especially waking up after a game and after a flight to get up for a game.”

Of course, what goes around comes around. As Boudreau opined after Tuesday’s game, “it’s going to probably going to reverse itself down the road.” It will, especially this winter.

The Caps play back-to-back sets of games 12 times this season, including four times in 22 days in February.

Troy Brouwer on Friday talked about the Chicago Blackhawks’ plight last season, when they had 18 back-to-back occurrences. That’s almost half the regular-season schedule.

“I played in a lot of back-to-back games in Chicago,” Brouwer said. “It is tough to play those back-to-back games. But at the same time, it’s early in the season; guys are still fresh.”

That’s what the Red Wings hope for. But still, Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s lamented the lack of an off-day after beating the Blue Jackets at home on Friday night.

“They haven’t lost and we haven’t lost,” he told reporters at Joe Louis Arena. “I wish there was a day in between, but still it should be a lot of fun.”

And while the Caps will face these challenges later this year, Brouwer said general manager George McPhee’s input into the schedule included an emphasis on these situations.

“At the beginning of the year, George was talking about how much work he puts into getting the schedule so that when we’re playing big games hopefully we have more fresh games than tired games,” Brouwer said.

The Caps are 6-0-0, the Red Wings 5-0-0, so it doesn’t get much bigger this early in the season.

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Positive scheduling

Saturday presents the third time the Caps are rested and facing a team playing the back end of a back-to-back. Here’s a look at the results so far:

Hurricanes lost to Lighting 5-1 at home Oct. 7 | Hurricanes lost to Caps in overtime 4-3 at Verizon Center Oct. 8

Panthers beat Lighting 7-4 on road Oct. 17 | Panthers lost to Caps 3-0 at Verizon Center Oct. 18

Red Wings beat Blue Jackets 5-2 at home Oct. 21| Red Wings at Caps, Oct. 22

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Capitals’ back-to-backs this season (12) Six times they face rested opponents

Nov. 4 at Hurricanes, Nov. 5 at Islanders (Islanders off night before)

Nov. 11 at Devils, Nov. 12 vs. Devils

Nov. 25 vs. Rangers, Nov. 26 at Sabres (Sabres at Blue Jackets night before)

Dec. 30 vs. Sabres, Dec. 31 at Blue Jackets (Blue Jackets off night before)

Jan. 17 vs. Islanders, Jan. 18 at Canadiens (Canadiens off night before)

Feb. 4 at Canadiens, Feb. 5 vs. Bruins (Bruins play night before)

Feb. 12 at Rangers, Feb. 13 vs. Sharks (Sharks play night before)

Feb. 17 at Panthers, Feb. 18 at Lightning (Lightning play night before)

Feb. 24 vs. Canadiens, Feb. 25 at Maple Leafs (Maple Leafs off night before)

March 10 at Bruins, March 11 vs. Maple Leafs (Maple Leafs play night before)

March 18 at Blackhawks, March 19 at Red Wings (Red Wings off night before)

March 22 at Flyers, March 23 vs. Jets (Jets off night before)

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