Mike Ribeiro admits that if he looks at the big picture that is the Eastern Conference standings, it can be a little overwhelming.
What he sees heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. game against the Winnipeg Jets (on CSN) is the Capitals at the bottom of those standings with 15 points, 14 behind the first-place Montreal Canadiens.
“If you look at the big picture, well, you don’t want to look at the big picture too much because there are some teams way up there,” Ribeiro said.
“You try to get some points some how. I think the focus for us is against our division. It’s a good focus for us to get the division and go from there.”
If you break down the Southeast Division, the Caps are still in last place with a 7-11-1 record, but they remain just six points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Jets, each of whom have 21 points.
The fact that the Philadelphia Flyers also have 21 points and are in ninth place suggests that the Caps might have to win the Southeast Division just to get into the playoffs.
“We’ve talked about that,” Caps coach Adam Oates acknowledged. “That could happen.”
That means the Caps will need to steal as many points as possible against their division rivals. The Caps are 4-2-0 against the Southeast this season, their only winning record among the three divisions in the East.
“We just want to play game by game,” Caps captain Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s most important thing for us is not to think about the standings and how the different teams play. We still have 30 games left [actually 29] and if we win two and they lose two or three we’re back on track and they’re out of the playoffs and we’re in.”
The Caps also must improve their record on the road, where they own the league’s worst record at 2-6-1.
Ovechkin said the Caps will need to show more energy than what they showed in Philadelphia on Wednesday when they chased the Flyers all night in a 4-1 loss.
“I don’t think you can question our effort,” Ovechkin said. “Everyone is fighting and working hard.”
Chasing the Jets: The Caps have lost four in a row to Winnipeg, including a 4-2 setback on Jan. 22 in their second game of the season.
Who’s hot: Ribeiro has 14 points in his last 11 games, while Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd has seven points in his last five.
Green out: Caps defenseman Mike Green did not make the trip to Winnipeg and will be replaced by rookie Tomas Kundratek on a top pairing with Karl Alzner.
“I actually thought he played very well in New York and in Philly the other night, which are tough environments,” Oates said of Kundratek. “It’s just another test for him on the learning curve.”