The Caps welcome the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings to Verizon Center tomorow, and they will do it with a healthy club for the first time since early November. Defenseman Tom Poti will be back after missing 15 games with his third groin inury of the season.
Detroit has lost four in a row (0-3-1) and have given up 19 goals in those games. Meanwhile, the Caps have lost five of eight, and have been passed by New Jersey for second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings gave Henrik Zetterberg a 12-year, $73 million contract earlier this week, but he missed last night’s game with a back injury.
The Caps spent a lot of time today on both special teams, which have struggled a bit of late. The penalty killing units will face a stiff challenge tomorrow against the Red Wings, who boast one of the top power plays in the league.
One of the keys to Detroit’s success is Tomas Holmstrom, who is the best player in the league at standing in front of the net and creating havoc. The Red Wings actually had a goal disallowed against Dallas last night because Holmstrom was called for interference.
“It was different back when I played because you would get a cross-check right in the back of the neck and a punch in the face,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Now, they allow battles but nothing of the violent kind.”
Boudreau was about the extra time spent on the special teams, but he didn’t want to make a big deal about it. He said it is a normal thing for the team to spend extra time on the special teams when they haven’t had a chance in so long.
Here is one quote from Boudreau from yesterday that I couldn’t squeeze into my story about the PK problems:
“We’re just going through a rough spell and it will correct,” Boudreau said at Chevy Chase Club. “Dean [Evanson] works too hard at that and the players know it. Right now, every time we make a mistake it is in the net. We can not allow them in our zone for a minute and thirty seconds, and then they come in and it goes in off a skate.”
As for the new line combinations, Boudreau — as usual — tried to downplay the significance of his new alignment. He said the lines could change tomorrow, but remember there is no morning skate for the 12:30 start against the Red Wings.
“I wanted talked to [Fedorov] and Alex and Alex about it and see what they thought,” Boudreau said of his all-Russian top line. “I don’t want to just throw them out there, so I wanted them to practice and see if they feel good about it.”
I’ll have more on Fedorov in tommorow’s paper, er online edition. Also, here’s a link to my online chat from yesterday (yeah, I know the photo is a bit large).
Finally, check back here in the coming hours/days because my first installment of a weekly video session from here at K-Plex will be going up on the site. My first guest? The man, the myth, the legend — Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt.