Habs at Caps Gameday

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Most of North America's eyes will be fixated on the World Junior gold medal game tonight, but if you happen to gander towards the NHL's schedule tonight, there is certainly a marquee match-up in the works between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals tonight at 7PM EST!

The Canadiens roll into the US capital tonight with a slim 20 man roster. With Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn both missing the short 1 game road trip with lower body injuries, expect the Canadiens to go with the same line-up that couldn't solve Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres in Sunday afternoon's 1-0 loss.

While the Canadiens didn't come out of that game with any points, they did come out of it with the satisfaction of competing against the class of the Northeast division and staying in it to the bitter end. The telling stats of that game were the even amount of shots (30 a piece), as well as the shots that didn't make either goaltender's net (a combination of missed and blocked shots totalling 20 each side).

At the tail end of a long road trip, after the holidays, playing a goaltender that barely saw any action in the latter part of December, the Canadiens can confidently fly into Washington tonight with high expectations and a chance at winning.

But Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps will be waiting. And with one of only 3 home losses coming at the hands of the Canadiens, they will definitely be seeking revenge against Andrei Markov and the Habs. But if the history between these two teams, as well as recent records are any indication, tonight will be a hard-fought victory for who ever comes out with the two points.

I've been somewhat out of the loop lately, taking a bit of a holiday break from game previews (hey, even I'm allowed to take a break!), so we'll let the stats speak for themselves in this one:

*Note: Injured players are ommitted from stat leaders.

-- HABS CAPS
Goals: Cammalleri (20) Ovechkin(26)
Assists: Plekanec (36) Backstrom (31)
Points: Plekanec (46) Ovechkin (50)
Pluys/Minus: Cammalleri (+12) Ovechkin(+18)
Time on Ice: Hamrlik (24:18 per game) Green (25:09 per game)
PIMs: Mara (44) Ovechkin (50)
Shots: Cammalleri(139) Ovechkin (177)
SVP: Halak (.922) Theodore(.896)
GAA: Price (2.62) Neuvirth (3.02)
Record: Halak (11-6-0 18GP) Theodore (9-6-4 21GP)
Injuries: O'Byrne (Personal, DTD)
Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body, DTD)
Sergei Kostitsyn (lower body, DTD)
Varlamov (Groin, 2 weeks)
Pothier (ribs, IR)
Backstrom (migraines, DTD)
Last 10: 6-4-0, lost 1 5-5-0, lost 3
Standings: 21-20-3, T7th, 45 points 24-11-6, 3rd, 54 points
GF/GA per game: 2.50GF, 25th/ 2.68GA, 10th 3.46GF, 1st/ 2.78GA, 15th
PP/PK %: 24.8%, 1st / 84.1%, 10th 23.5%, 2nd / 80.0%, 20th

WHAT THE STATS SAY:

Naturally, Ovechkin figures amongst most of Washington's statistical leads and will be the key to tonight's game. The Caps have have lost 6 out of the 7 games that Ovechkin has been shut out from. One of the those games was against the Canadiens, and Jacques Martin will need to keep his checkers on #8 tonight, despite not having the first change.

Also note that Scott Gomez has moved into 3rd place amongst the Canadiens' scoring leaders with 27 points, despite the reemergence of Andrei Kostitysn in the month of December and the fact that M-A Bergeron keeps putting up points. Look out for his line with Gionta and Pouliot tonight as a thread with Bruce Boudreau almost certain to match his checkers against the Plekanec like (assuming Jacques Martin keeps his lines intact for tonight.

The powerplay will once again be key tonight for either team, with the Canadiens' 1st ranked powerplay going up against the Caps' 2nd ranked PP.

Extra reading:

- habs Eyes on the Prize looks back at the first ever Montreal Canadiens game, which took place 100 years ago today, January 5th, 2010. A must read.

- Audio with several Habs on tonight's game and the Habs at the World Juniors. Lots of hardware amongst this group, with Pleks, Pouliot and Price all carrying gold, Markov and Cammy with a silver and bronze a piece, and with Gorges and Mara carrying silver medals.

- Dave Stubbs on Halak trade rumors and Allan Walsh.

- Pat Hickey's game story, Sabres 1 - Habs 0.

FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 3 - Caps 2, shootout

Carey Price gets the start in goal, whatever that means. Both teams need to have a solid outting and need to win, so it will be a close one.

Enjoy the game, Florida is up on Thursday and the Devils visit the Bell Centre on Saturday.

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com
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