The season’s first week has been a mixed bag for the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, though both will be looking for an offensive spark after suffering shutouts ahead of Thursday night’s meeting in D.C.
Washington has to like its chances to rebound with Alex Ovechkin back in the mix.
The Capitals (1-1-0) opened a four-game homestand with a 5-3 win over New Jersey, then lost 5-0 to San Jose on Tuesday without Ovechkin. Ovechkin said Wednesday he overslept and arrived late for the team’s morning skate, and was held out as punishment.
"I just messed up with my alarm clock … made a mistake," said Ovechkin, who has four goals and three assists in his last five meetings with Chicago. "We talked. We have a conversation. It’s (the) rules."
Ovechkin scored a goal and assisted on another in the opener. While the Capitals actually generated four more shots (31) without him Tuesday, they failed to score on four power plays after scoring twice on five chances against the Devils.
Washington was shut out only four times last season, including once in the first 48 games.
"We could have used him (Tuesday), and he’s a great player," Trotz said. "He’s our captain. He’s our leader but we didn’t have him today."
The Capitals are already without Nicklas Backstrom, who led the league with 60 assists last season but was only cleared for contact this week following offseason hip surgery. There’s no timetable for his return.
Chicago (2-2-0) lost 3-0 at Philadelphia on Wednesday despite 30 shots and five power plays. The Blackhawks scored twice on 10 total power plays in back-to-back wins against the New York Islanders.
They also spent a large portion of Wednesday’s contest killing off penalties, however, conceding six power plays with one score. Chicago had only been charged with 10 penalty minutes in its first three games prior to a performance coach Joel Quenneville called "brutal."
"We took some careless penalties and gave them some momentum," Quenneville said. "They had pace and we stood around and watched for the majority of the game."
The Blackhawks were shut out eight times last season.
Patrick Kane was scoreless on four shots after recording three goals in the previous two games. It remains to be seen if he’ll be jeered by another road crowd after Islanders and Flyers fans directed chants at him referencing the fact that he’s being investigated for an alleged sexual assault in western New York. No charges have been filed.
Jonathan Toews has four goals and four assists in seven career meetings with Washington while Marian Hossa has three goals and nine assists in his last 11 matchups.
The Capitals have won three straight and six of eight in the series, as well as four in a row at home.
Washington hasn’t been shut out in two straight games since March 2 and 4, 2012, against New Jersey and Philadelphia. Chicago was blanked last season at San Jose and Minnesota, Jan. 31 and Feb. 3.
Scott Darling, who has never faced the Capitals, is likely to make his second start of the season in net. He stopped 28 shots in Saturday’s 4-1 win against New York.