The Caps are going through the morning skate right now here in Arlington. After about half the team took yesterday off, it looks like everybody out there this morning. Viktor Kozlov is skating (Bruce Boudreau said yesterday that he doesn’t expect Kozlov to play tonight but maybe as early as Thursday). Boyd Gordon also is out there — he missed the final 14+ minutes against Pittsburgh and did not skate yesterday.
Two days after hosting in the Penguins, tonight the Flyers come to town as “Rivalry Week” continues (no Thrashers jokes, please). Philadelphia is fourth in the East and could have DC fan favorite Danny Briere back soon. This is the third of four meetings of the season between the two teams. Washington won the first matchup here at Verizon in a shootout, while the Flyers crushed the Caps at Wachovia Center.
UPDATE: It looks like the lineup will remain the same tonight as it was on Sunday (Kronwall and Kozlov will not play). Jose Theodore will be in net for the 23rd time in 27 games, and the Caps are 15-5-2 in his starts.
Bruce Boudreau went with “sooner rahter than later” when discussin the return of Viktor Kozlov, who will miss his ninth consecutive game with a groin injury.
There will plenty of talk tonight about the Flyers and their ability to score shorthanded goals, a category they lead the league in. Special teams in general will be a big key tonight. Philadelphia is fourth in the NHL on the power play at 23.3 percent (the Caps are tied for second, by the way), and the Flyers are tied for seventh on the PK at 82.9 percent. Toss in the 16 shorthanded goals, the Flyers win a lot of games on special teams.
So why is Phildelphia 10 points behind the Caps? Well, the Flyers are not a great team at even strength. They’ve scored the 19th-most goals 5-on-5 and allowed the second-most goals 4-on-4 (nine). A lot of that goes back to goaltending, where Martin Biron has been pretty shaky and lost some playing time to Antero Nittymaki.
Finally, a programming note: Our semi-regular live blogger, Stephen Whyno, will be at Verizon Center tonight to chronicle the action.