Gameday Preview: Capitals at Senators

Tonight’s game is the second of Ottawa’s three games versus the Capitals this season. Ottawa won the first game between these two teams on Nov. 27 by a score of 6-4.

Gameday Preview: Capitals at Senators
Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators pass the puck in front of Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals during the third period at Verizon Center on November 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Washington Capitals (20-14-4)
@
Ottawa Senators (16-18-8)
Canadian Tire Centre: 7:30 pm ET
TV: Sportsnet, RDS

Backstory…

Tonight’s game is the second of Ottawa’s three games versus the Capitals this season. Ottawa won the first game between these two teams on Nov. 27 by a score of 6-4.

Craig Anderson saved 29 of 33 shots and Bobby Ryan scored two goals to preserve the win.

Having beaten the Bruins on Saturday night, Ottawa will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 9. Since that time, the Senators have lost nine consecutive games that have been preceded by wins.

The Capitals arrive in Ottawa after their 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo last night. In the second game of back-to-backs, the Capitals are 3-1-2 on the season.

Storylines…

Announced as a late scratch from Saturday night’s game versus Boston, the uncertainty surrounding Jason Spezza’s health is nothing new for Senators fans.

Having endured two back surgeries, the second of which was performed last season, and a groin problem that nagged him earlier this season, Senators fans have grown accustomed to seeing Spezza miss time over the past few seasons.

Head coach Paul MacLean downplayed the seriousness of Spezza’s undisclosed lower body injury however and reiterated that it is not related to the groin issues that have plagued him.

Joining the captain on the sidelines is his assistant captain, Chris Phillips. Phillips, who blocked a shot with his foot during Friday night’s game in Boston, missed Saturday’s game and will miss tonight’s game as well.

After winning Saturday’s start, Craig Anderson was announced by MacLean as tonight’s starter.

Like fellow rookie goaltenders in Antti Raanta and Martin Jones, Philipp Grubauer has been the toast of Washington in December. Since being recalled on Nov. 30, the German goaltender has compiled a 5-1-2 record, a 2.18 GAA and a .937 save percentage in his nine appearances.

His steadying presence has earned him the trust of head coach Adam Oates, who has called upon Grubauer to start seven of the team’s past ten games.

Although Oates acknowledged his intent to start Braden Holtby against Ottawa, had Washington managed to win last night’s game in regulation, it would not have been shocking to see Oates ignore the evidence that suggests it is a poor decision to start a goaltender in back-to-back games and go back to Grubauer; especially since Holtby is 0-2-0 with a 3.55 GAA and a .909 save percentage in two career starts versus Ottawa.

Interesting Stat #1

Scheduled to miss his second consecutive game, Chris Phillips has been a model of good health for the Senators over the years. In fact, in his previous seven seasons, he has only missed two games – both of which occurred during the 2011/12 season.

Interesting Stat #2

In last night’s game versus the Sabres, Alex Ovechkin registered 12 shots (the entire Buffalo team had 17).

Since arriving in the NHL for the start of the 2005/06 season, it was the 38th instance in which Ovechkin had ten or more shots in a regular season game.

Here is the leaderboard for having the most games in which an individual registered ten or more shots:

Rk

Player

# of Games with 10+ Shots

1

Alex Ovechkin

38

2

Eric Staal

9

T-3

Jeff Carter

5

T-3

Jaromir Jagr

5

T-3

Olli Jokinen

5

T-3

Evgeni Malkin

5

Interesting Stat #3

Washington’s record in games in which Ovechkin has ten or more shots is 23-10-5

Interesting Stat #4

In Erik Karlsson’s last six games versus the Washington Capitals, the star defenceman has two goals and ten points while averaging four shots per game. Perhaps most importantly, in his head-to-head matchups with Alex Ovechkin, he has limited him to two goals and four points. In this stretch of games, Ovechkin has averaged 3.83 shots per game – which is down from his average of 4.4 shots per game during the past three seasons.

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