Capitals without Ovechkin/Game Preview

It was announced yesterday that Alexander Ovechkin will be sidelined for the next 7-10 days to rest a “nagging injury.”  Anyone remember the last time that everyone on the Capitals was healthy? This is coming one game after Nicklas Backstrom’s return from a hand injury and we already have Jason Arnott, Mike Green and Tom Poti on the shelf. However, there isn’t that much need to panic in DC. Yes, having the team’s best player out is a significant blow but the Caps have a playoff spot locked up (barring a complete collapse) so it might be wise to let Ovie rest a few games if he’s got a lingering injury. Plus, this isn’t a new situation for the Caps since Ovechkin has had to sit out numerous games in his career due to injuries and suspensions. How did they fare in those games? 8-5-1 and they scored an average of 4 goals a game. Not bad, eh? Though, it probably helped that a few of those games were against some bad Florida Panther and New York Islander teams. Tonight’s going to be a much more difficult task as they face the top seeded team in the East, the Philadelphia Flyers. Still, there isn’t really any need for the team to rush him back now if he’s hurt. If we were battling for a playoff spot then it would be a different story. I think it’s the same reason they are giving Arnott some time off and not rushing Green back either. Yes, you would like to go into the playoffs full speed ahead but you don’t want key players hurt then.

Opponent Scouting Report:

Anyone remember what happened last time we played the Flyers without Ovechkin? Yep, the 8-2 game (although, we had a lot of help from Stefan Auger and Dan Carcillo) so don’t expect a repeat of that. The Flyers are a team with arguably the strongest defensive corps in the league and tons of scoring depth so it’s no wonder they are sitting at the top of the conference. The month of March has never been kind to Philly and it shows this year as they are only 4-3-2 and the Caps, Bruins and Penguins are challenging them for that top spot. However, this is still a dangerous team, especially when you play them on the road so don’t expect this to be an easy win for Washington.

Game Notes:

– The Flyers and Caps share a similar luxury with defensive depth. Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn have done very well this year and Matt Carle’s had a decent season while Chris Pronger was out. Even the bottom pairing of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell isn’t bad either.

– Michal Neuvirth is getting the start tonight and his numbers against Philly aren’t impressive (.884 save pct in 2 starts) but that’s probably effected by him leaving the second game with an injury. The starting job heading into the playoffs could be his to lose so it’s a big test for him tonight.

– In the Flyers net is Sergei Bobrovsky and he’s had a good rookie season. Not quite Calder-worthy but it’s hard to complain with the numbers he’s put up so far. .923 save percentage, 2.88 GAAA

– Kris Versteeg’s been a disappointment for the Flyers so far (5 points, 14 games) and he’s continuing to do what he did in Toronto; under-achieve.

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