Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gameday Preview: Caps vs Thrashers

Who: Washington Capitals vs. Atlanta Thrashers
Where: Philips Arena
When: Wednesday, February 13, 7:30 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, 3WT Radio;

Media Notes:
Caps' Site
Washington Post
Washington Times
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Carolina may have pulled out a win last night, but by the end of this one there will be at least one new division leader. Again. It's gotten to the point where you can get whiplash just watching the standings from day to day, and while that's loads of fun you can bet the Caps and their fans will breathe easier if they can start to open up some sort of lead in the division standings.

They get their next chance to do just that when the travel to Atlanta to kick off a three game road trip through the division - one that, and stop me if you've heard this one, could prove to be a turning point for their playoff quest.

The Caps haven't been to Atlanta since early November, sandwiching that game and this most recent visit around three straight meetings here in DC. Atlanta has taken two of those three games, so the Caps will be looking to return some of that Southern hospitality and open up a three point lead on their friendly foes.

Like everything else in the Southeast Division, these two teams are fairly even matched. Separated by only one point in the standings, the Caps and Thrashers have both experienced a renaissance of sorts (albeit an inconsistent one at times) after firing their coaches. A pair of Russian sharpshooters lead the way in goals and points for each team; a pair of Swedish rookies in assists. The Caps are 18th in power play effectiveness, the Thrashers 16th. Penalty killers are ranked 21st for the Caps, 26th for Atlanta. Each team has 27 wins.

But the reality is the Caps have been the hotter team of late - and again, stop me if you've heard this one, they should be able to win this game. Atlanta's offensive firepower is potent and their goalie can keep them in a lot of games, but when one of your top defensive pairings is Ken Klee and Alexei Zhitnik, you're weak on the blue line...and the Caps need to exploit that. Throw in the fact that the Caps have recently gotten their specialty teams back on track with a clinic in both just three days ago, and this team is ready to go.

Oh, and they need to watch out for that Hossa guy - he scores a mean empty-netter.

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