The Red Eye GamePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Immediately after Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles, the Caps headed for LA International Airport for the red-eye flight back to the District. Flights of that length are not uncommon for the Capitals; typically they’ll have a “coast to coast” flight once or twice a year. What is unusual about this one is that the Caps will have to play a home game just two nights after that contest in L.A. Frequently, East Coast teams will work their way back east, maybe playing road games in places like Minnesota (as the Caps did in 2008 on their way home from San Jose) or Buffalo and Pittsburgh (as they did last season). Or, on those occasions where teams are flying all the way back from the coast directly, they generally have more than two days between games. Not this time. The Caps will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday at Verizon Center. Washington took Tuesday off to ease its jet lag, and it will hold a morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Wednesday prior to the Penguins game, which has a somewhat merciful 7:30 start. Also, the Penguins play at home tonight against Ottawa, which is a bit of an equalizer. In their 37-year NHL history, I could only find five instances – and just one in the last 27 years – in which Washington traveled directly back from a visit to the West Coast (flying back from either Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Vancouver, or, back in the day, Oakland) and had to play at home two nights later. The most recent of those incidences was immediately after the end of the lockout, in December, 2005. After a two-game trip to Los Angeles and San Jose on Dec. 14 and 16, respectively, the Caps hosted the Florida Panthers on Dec. 18. The Cats took a 3-2 decision in that one. Prior to that, you’ve got to go back to October, 1984. The Caps finished a three-game trip with a 5-2 win over the Canucks on Oct. 28, then returned home to take a 4-3 overtime win from Calgary on Oct. 30. Back on March 2, 1979, the Caps downed the Canucks 6-2 in Vancouver, then returned home to face the Minnesota North Stars on March 4. The Caps edged the Stars by a 5-4 count. Finally, way back in their inaugural expansion season of 1974-74, the Caps finished a fruitless (0-3) three-game trip to Vancouver, Los Angeles and Oakland with a 5-2 loss to the California Golden Seals on Dec. 20, 1974. Those three games, by the way, were played in a span of just four nights. Two nights after the loss to the Golden Seals, the Caps were back home where they absorbed a 4-0 whitewash at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. Later in that inaugural season, the Caps had a two-game trip to Los Angeles and Oakland on March 26 and 28, 1975. After defeating the Golden Seals for the first road win in franchise history – and the lone road win in that first season (1-39) – the Caps headed home to host Detroit. The Red Wings took that one by an 8-5 score. The Caps are 2-3 in the five times they’ve played at home within two nights of returning from the West Coast, but it’s clearly not a common occurrence.
Some 19 years ago, Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik made his NHL debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tonight, the 37-year-old Hamrlik will help break in Washington’s greenest blueliner, 22-year-old Tomas Kundratek. The Caps recalled Kundratek from AHL Hershey on Tuesday night and he will make his NHL