With a low pressure system and frigid temperatures arriving in D.C. around the same time the Edmonton Oilers hit the Verizon Center ice, you'd forgive me if I made an "Alberta Clipper" joke to open this post. But I'll spare you the groan and open with a reminder that the last time the Oil were in town - nearly a year ago to the day - the host Caps won the game in the 12th round of a shootout after Matt Bradley told Bruce Boudreau, "I'm going to score, put me out there," and then did just that.
That win vaulted the Caps into 11th place in the Conference, just four points behind Division-leading Atlanta (seriously), and the Caps would lose just ten games the rest of the regular season, four of which came at home in regulation. In fact, the Caps are 32-6-3 at home over the past calendar year, and haven't lost two home games in a row since last February.
That latter streak, of course, is on the line tonight after Steve Mason and the Blue Jackets whitewashed the Caps on Friday night, and after a tough loss in Montreal on Saturday (and with a trip to Pittsburgh and a visit from the Bruins looming), the boys in red need to take care of business (with military precision) tonight against a team that has never won in D.C. - the Oilers last road victory in this match up came in January of 1997 back at USAirways Arena in Landover, and that was their first win in that building since February of 1990.
And while the Caps and Oilers have played just twice since the lockout, the match up is not without storylines, first and foremost being the Caps' selection of Karl Alzner one spot before the Oil took Sam Gagner back in June of 2007. Here's how each is faring so far this season:
|2008 - Karl Alzner||21||1||3||4||5||0||0||0||0||0||23||4.3|
|2008 - Sam Gagner||38||4||12||16||1||26||2||0||1||0||77||5.2|
Then, of course, there's The Nylander Saga.
Advantage: TBD (Granted, the Caps thought they were getting this deal (at worst) and have thus far pretty much gotten this one, but hey, the jury's still out - we've got 2.5 years left for Nyls to turn it around!)
As for the game itself, this is another one of those trap games - the Caps run the risk of looking past a lesser (on paper) opponent to another lesser (on paper) opponent. But if they can focus for sixty (perhaps even just forty) minutes, two points should be theirs.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
The Caps rank third in the League in man-games lost to injury.... Apparently, "over the course of a season, teams will tend to have a combined shooting and save percentage of 100%; if, during an earlier part of the schedule, teams are cruising well above or below that figure, it is likely that over time, they will fall back in line with the general trend." Right now, the Caps are at 100.12%. It's magic!... Some dude in New York thinks Gary Bettman should step in and right the wrong that is Alex Ovechkin's All-Star snub.... A bunch of weekly power ranking are out with the Caps up one to fourth at USAToday.com, down four to eighth at The Hockey News, and down one to fifth at The Columbus Dispatch and CBSSports.com... Burnside and LeBrun on realignment.... SB Nation now has a Thrashers blog.... Happy 55th Birthday to today's Cap of the Day.... Finally, on this date back in 1993, Kevin Hatcher became the first Caps blueliner to have a hat trick when he scored three times in a 5-4
win loss at MSG (apparently it wasn't hard to shoot the puck while carrying a purse that night).