Rusted or Rested?Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Washington gets back to the business of playing hockey tonight in Tampa, after a five-day layoff for the NHL’s All-Star break. The last time the Caps were off the ice for five consecutive days, it was because it was still summer and they hadn’t reported to training camp yet. Now the Caps will head to the virtual back nine of the NHL campaign, a back nine with terrain that is a bit more rugged than the front was. The Caps will play 18 of their final 34 games on the road, where they own an anemic 8-13-2 mark so far. Washington has won 20 or more road games in each of its last four seasons. If it is to do so again, it will have to win 12 of those remaining 18 games on the road. Among those remaining road stops: New York (Rangers, twice) Boston (twice), Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia. The last 65 days of the front nine contained just two sets of back-to-back games, one pair in late December and another in mid-January. Starting tonight in Tampa, the Caps will play three sets of back-to-back games in the next 14 days, and four of the six games contained in those sets will come on the road. Hopefully, the Caps rested and recharged during the break. They’ll start out with back-to-back road games against divisional foes. The first of those games is against a team that is on a season-high four-game winning streak, and a team that is desperate for points. The Lightning is nine points behind Washington, and the Bolts have four games remaining with the Capitals. A regulation win tonight could go a long way toward permanently putting the Lightning in the rearview mirror for the Caps. Despite struggling to maintain a consistent forecheck and to consistently get pucks to the net, the Capitals are 9-4-1 in their last 14 games. But eight of those 14 games were played in the District and the Caps won seven of them. They’ve gone 2-3-1 in the six road games during that run. One of the Caps’ biggest problems on the road has been an ongoing inability to take an early lead. The Capitals have scored a grand total of four first-period goals in their last 13 road games. Getting an early jump on the Bolts is certainly Washington’s game plan tonight, but that’s always the case. It’s the execution of that part of the plan that has been flawed over the last couple of months. Tomas Vokoun gets the call in goal tonight for the Capitals He is 5-8 in 14 road starts with a 3.18 GAA and a .906 save pct. One lineup change of note will take place for the Caps tonight in Tampa. Right wing Joel Rechlicz – signed to an NHL deal and recalled from AHL Hershey yesterday – will suit up for his first NHL game since April 11, 2010 when he was a member of the New York Islanders. At the time of his recall, Rechlicz led the AHL with 184 penalty minutes in 27 games. He has totaled 95 penalty minutes in 23 career NHL contests.
Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz was in the lineup for 21 of the team’s first 22 games this season. He was a healthy scratch for one game, a Nov. 11 contest at New Jersey when Mike Green came back from an absence of nearly three weeks – and went back to the sidelines the next night. Since Dale Hunter