News and notes as the Capitals [5-5-0] prepare for tonight’s 10 p.m. puck drop against the Calgary Flames [4-4-2] at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Hello again: The Caps and Flames last met on Oct. 3 when the Caps stormed back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 for a 5-4 shootout victory. The two teams have not met in Calgary since Oct. 30, 2010.
Another homecoming: On Thursday night the Caps caught the Edmonton Oilers on their first game back from a long road trip and beat them 4-1 for their third straight win. Tonight they’ll catch the Flames in their first game back from a road trip that had them in five different cities over nine nights. The Flames went 1-4-0 on that trip.
Ovi watch: Alex Ovechkin is off to the best start of his career with 10 goals in 10 games. He also has 40 goals in 51 games since Adam Oates put him on right wing and kept him there seven games into last season. "That’s what he does,” teammate Joel Ward said of Ovechkin. “That’s his job, to lead the troops. We just have to follow behind." Ovechkin has three goals on the Canadian road trip, two of them off faceoff wins by Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson – one from the left circle, one from the right.
Even strength: Before hitting the road for their longest trip of the season, there were real concerns about the Caps’ ability to score at even strength. But in their last two wins seven of the Caps’ eight goals have come at even strength. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Johansson have combined for four of those goals, while the new third line of Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward has three. In their last five games [4-1-0] the Capitals have outscored opponents 16-10 overall and 9-6 at even strength.
Dimmed Flames: After a strong 3-0-2 start the Flames fell on hard times on their five-game road trip, allowing nine goals in their last two losses to fall back to .500. “We're not quitters over here, but it's a results-oriented business and it was a terrible road trip," Flames left wing TJ Gagliardi said.
Road kill: The Caps are now ranked second in the NHL on the penalty kill [88.2 percent], thanks to 16 straight kills dating back to Oct. 12. They’ve now gone five straight games without allowing a power-play goal.
Who's hot: Ovechkin has eight goals in his last seven games against the Flames. Johansson has four assists in his last two games. Johansson left Friday’s practice early with what Adam Oates called “soreness.” Calgary’s Jiri Hudler leads the Flames with 12 points in 10 games and had a nine-game points streak snapped at Dallas.
Welcome home: Caps center Jay Beagle and defenseman Mike Green are both natives of Calgary. Beagle earned 107 points [38 goals, 69 assists] and 214 penalty minutes in 122 games for the Calgary Royals of the Alberta Junior Hockey League from 2003-05. Green played his youth hockey in Calgary before joining the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. Caps defenseman Karl Alzner played in parts of five seasons for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, registering 117 points [19 goals , 98 assists] in 260 games with Calgary from 2003-08.
Here are the projected lineups for the two teams:
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marty Erat – Books Laich – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Eric Fehr – Tom Wislon
Healthy scratch: Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
John Erskine – Steve Oleksy
Healthy scratch: Alex Urbom
Braden Holtby [starter] – Michal Neuvirth
Curtis Glencross - Matt Stajan - Lee Stempniak
Mike Cammalleri - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler
TJ Galiardi – Mikael Backlund – David Jones
Lance Bouma – Joe Colborne – Tim Jackman
Scratches: Brian McGrattan, Sven Baertschi
Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman
Chris Butler – TJ Brodie
Shane O'Brien – Christopher Breen
Scratch: Mark Giordano
Kari Ramo [starter] – Joey MacDonald