With Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Sabres, the Caps finally earned their first win of the season in their fifth game of the 2012-13 season. Don’t look now, but more than 10 percent of the lockout-shortened campaign is in the rear view mirror.
During a normal regular season of 82 games there would be daily discussion of standings by coaches, players, media and fans with 43 games remaining. And since there are now 43 games remaining, it’s not to soon to be checking the standings daily, jockeying for position and making sure you don’t fall too far behind.
“We start looking at possible playoff match-ups right away here,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “We see the power rankings and all that like everybody else does and when you see your team up there one week and not the next week, you think about it a little bit.”
Sunday’s win moved the Capitals out of the Southeast Division basement and out of the bottom slot in the Eastern Conference standings. But Washington is still looking up at most of the division and nearly all of the conference, including its two opponents on the current road trip.
Just as the Caps built on their Friday performance in New Jersey for Sunday’s win over the Sabres, they now seek to use that win over Buffalo as a springboard to better things against two more Northeast Division opponents out on the road this week.
“It’s huge to get on a roll here,” says Caps right wing Joel Ward. “We can build some momentum on that last win and get a win here tonight just to keep moving forward. We’re slowly coming together to find our identity I know it’s been a short period of time, but it’s still a work in progress. I think we’re making pretty good steps. The last two games have shown that.”
Against Ottawa tonight, Washington will ice the same lineup, the same line combinations and the same defensive pairings that it deployed against the Sabres on Sunday.
The line of Jason Chimera, Mike Ribeiro and Ward has proven to be an effective trio in the two games it has skated together. Those three players are Washington’s top three scorers for the season going into tonight’s tilt with the Senators.
With a goal and five assists, Ribeiro’s six points pace the Caps. In his first season with the team after on off-season deal with Dallas brought him to the District, Ribeiro has fit in nicely.
“He makes it pretty easy,” says Ward of Ribeiro. “I think he’s not just a playmaker but he also works hard. I think people underestimate his game. I think people think he is just a perimeter guy, but he gets in there and battles for pucks. Obviously he’s not the biggest guy but he definitely wins a lot of battles out there. I think that’s very helpful for us. A guy that you know is going to work hard but is still going to make plays is pretty special.”
Ribeiro believes that now that he and his teammates are beginning to grasp and absorb coach Adam Oates’ style of hockey, it’s easy enough to play with whichever linemates he is placed between on a night to night basis.
“The main thing is that guys are playing the right way now,” Ribeiro points out. “It’s easy to play with anyone when everyone does the right thing out there. With those guys, we feel comfortable with the last two games that we played and hopefully we can carry on.”
That’s the idea. Keep collecting the points and climbing the standings ladder. It’s going to get late early this year.
“We don’t have any games to figure it out,” says Alzner, “but we’ve got a lot to figure out. We’re slowly working at it. Our last game was definitely our best game. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
For the second time in as many games, the Capitals are in position to benefit from the injury woes of an opponent. Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek was absent from the lineup on Sunday when Washington recorded its first win of the season over the Sabres at Verizon Center, and two nights later another beast of the Northeast is going to miss a game against the Capitals.
Ottawa center Jason Spezza won’t play against Washington tonight because of an upper-body injury sustained in Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins, Sens coach Paul MacLean announced after Ottawa’s morning skate today. Don’t expect the Caps to sob too loudly about Spezza’s absence; he has nine goals and 29 points in 30 career games against Washington.
Spezza is being evaluated today. The results of that evaluation will determine whether
In Spezza’s absence, the Senators will install Peter Regin as their top line pivot. The Danish pivot was Ottawa’s third-round choice (87th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Regin played just 10 games last season because of an early season shoulder injury. He totaled two goals and four points in those 10 contests but is without a point thus far in five games this season.
“Last year he played four or five games before he got hurt,” notes MacLean of Regin. “But he played well in those games so we’re going to give him the opportunity to start the game tonight in that position. We’ll evaluate it as it goes along and how goes along. But I think at this point in time we’re prepared to give him that opportunity.”
Because the Senators have Spezza, Kyle Turris, Zack Smith and Jim O’Brien up the middle, Regin has been skating on the wing this season, averaging 10:29 in ice time per night.
“I don’t like him as a winger, I know that much,” says MacLean. “I like him way better as a centerman. He’s played in the league, he generates offense, he has some ability so we like him there right now.”
Regin’s best NHL season was in 2009-10 when he totaled 13 goals and 29 points in 75 games. He’ll have some big skates to fill.
Spezza has two goals and five points in five games this season, and he is coming off his best season in the last four, a 34-goal, 84-point effort in 2011-12. In Spezza’s worst full season in the league, he totaled 22 goals and 55 points in 2003-04. Regin hasn’t managed to match those numbers in his career; he has 19 goals and 52 points in 156 games.
Craig Anderson gets the start in net. Anderson did not surrender his first even-strength goal of the season until his fourth start, on Sunday against Pittsburgh. As Japers Rink pointed out today, Anderson has stopped 90 of the 91 shots he has faced in even-strength action this season.
Lifetime against the Capitals, Anderson is 5-5-1 with a shutout, a 2.73 GAA and a .918 save pct.Posted in: Sports
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