Caps-Wild preview

Coming off a shutout victory over Carolina, the Capitals will continue their road trip tonight with a contest in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild. The Caps win last night was due to superb goaltending, a solid defensive effort and a little bit of luck. They will likely do the same thing tonight against the Wild as they are going up against one of the league’s top rated powerplays. Nearly half of Minnesota’s goals have come with the man advantage so it will be a tough test for this Caps penalty killing unit which has been great thus far.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Capitals had a similar strategy to last night’s game where they started off the game forechecking very strong and getting an early goal that way. We could see the 4th line getting a lot of shifts early on depending on how the Wild respond to it. The solid defensive play last night from guys like John Erskine and Tyler Sloan was very nice to see but I have to wonder how much longer they will keep it up. Tonight’s game against the Wild shouldn’t be that big of a hassle for them unless we have to kill a lot of penalties.

Know Your Enemy: Minnesota Wild edition

The Wild were always a team I’ve liked and they’re getting a little more entertaining to watch now that they have a coach that encourages a more up-tempo style of play. Unfortunately, it hasn’t translated to much winning since they found themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference last year and there were not much expectations this coming year. As I said earlier, they’ve shown a very deadly powerplay this season and our penalty killers are going to be put to the test if we end up taking a lot of dumb penalties. They are also one of the most penalized teams in the league so our powerplay will get plenty of chances tonight.

Most Caps fans now know the Wild as the team that Jose Theodore currently plays for. Unfortunately, we probably aren’t going to see him tonight unless Niklas Backstrom gives up 3+ goals early and is pulled. Knowing the Wild’s history of starting out games strong and finishing flat, that probably won’t happen. Michal Neuvirth will be starting in back-to-back games. Some thought Braden Holtby would get his first career start today but it’s tough not to go to Neuvirth since he’s proved he can handle consecutive games and he’s coming off a very strong performance.

Who/What to watch for:

Capitals

Once again, I am keeping my eye on the top line tonight because I feel that they are close to having a break out game. They looked a lot better last night and had a ton of chances that were turned away by Cam Ward. Keep in mind, Niklas Backstrom is capable of doing that as well.

Wild

Chuck Kobasew, because he is filling in for Guillaume Latendresse as the 2nd line left winger and he previously had a 20 goal season in Boston. Let’s see if he can rekindle some of those offensive talents now that he’s playing with top 6 minutes. Also keep an eye on Marek Zidlicky. As I said earlier, the Wild’s powerplay has been very lethal this season and he’s been a main reason why.

Projected line combos;
Capitals


Ovechkin – Backstrom – Knuble

Laich – Perrault – Semin

Chimera – Fleischmann – Fehr

Hendricks – Steckel – Bradley

Green – Schultz

Carlson – Alzner

Sloan – Erskine

Neuvirth

Out; King, Johansson, Varlamov, Poti, Gordon, Fahey

Wild


Brunette – Koivu – Miettinen

Kobasew – Cullen – Havlat

Clutterbuck – Madden – Nystrom

Staubitz – Brodziak – Gillies

Zidlicky – Zanon

Schultz – Burns

Stoner – Falk

Backstrom

Out: Latendresse, Barker, Bouchard, Wellman

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