Capitals at Blackhawks for preview of Winter Classic match-up

As the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals meet on January 1st for the annual Winter Classic, tonight's game is being billed as a preview of the NHL's must-see game of the year.
 
Capitals' captain Alex Ovechkin (6G/7A/13pts) - a powerhouse scorer in his own right - has expressed admiration for Patrick Kane's (4G/5A/9pts) stickhandling skills, and the respect is returned from the Blackhawks' talented winger. The two play very different styles, but both are among the top scorers in the league, and both are very entertaining players. They, plus their many talented teammates, should make for an interesting game not only tonight, but on New Year's Day as well.
 
The Capitals are starting out their first season under new head coach Barry Trotz, who is bringing his defensive-minded coaching style to an Eastern Conference team that has ... shall we say, struggled a bit in that department. Trotz is also well-versed with how Joel Quenneville coaches and how the Blackhawks play, having played against them multiple times per season as the former head coach of Central Division-rivals Nashville Predators for many years. It is Trotz's first season of coaching in the East, and he has a record of 30-39-9 vs Quenneville's teams.
 
Washington is not off to a good start so far this season, going 4-5-3, which puts themwith just 11 points and 6th in the Metropolitan Division, 26th overall in the league. Ovechkin called tonight's game "a huge challenge". 
 
The Blackhawks have fared well thus far against Eastern Conference teams, going 6-1-0, including 2 shut outs, and outscoring EC opponents by an average margin of 4 to 1.67 G/G. Meanwhile, the Capitals are 1-3-2 versus Western teams and have been outscored by an average margin of 3.33 to 4 G/G; 4 of those games were 1-goal losses. The Capitals have been particularly bad in the third period, so they will look for a better effort against Chicago, who has scored 45% of their goals in the third.
 
Chicago should look to take strong advantage of any chances they get on the power play: while they're ranked tied for 15th overall, the Caps' PK hovers at just 79.1%. Washington's PP - 2nd in the league and clicking along at 29.3% - will also do their best against the Blackhawks PK, ranked 2nd in the league at 92.7%. 
 
What will be most pressing for the Blackhawks is to not only win at home, but more importantly, to score: the team's last two games on United Center ice were shut outs against them. Corey Crawford is expected to be in net for Chicago.
 
 
Notes From the Bench
 
- Duncan Keith will play in his 700th NHL game tonight.
 
 
Injury Report
 
- Patrick Sharp will miss up to a month will a lower body injury. Peter Regin has been recalled from Rockford.
 
- Brooks Orpik is expected to return to Washington's lineup tonight.
 
 
 
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