Capitals-Jets Preview

Alex Ovechkin was involved in a nasty collision with teammate

Mike Knuble during Thursday’s practice, but the Washington

Capitals’ superstar appears to be just fine.

Suddenly, one could say the same about the Capitals’ playoff

chances.

Washington looks for a fifth straight win as it continues a

five-game road trip Friday night in Winnipeg, where the Jets hope

to pull within two points of their Southeast Division rival for the

Eastern Conference’s eighth playoff spot.

Ovechkin and Knuble ran into each other during a drill Thursday

morning, and though the two-time Hart Trophy winner stayed face

down on the ice for a few minutes, the Capitals (36-28-6) said he

merely had the wind knocked out of him.

That’s good news for Washington, which is playing perhaps its

best hockey since opening the season with seven consecutive wins.

The Capitals’ fourth straight victory in this run was their most

impressive, as Ovechkin’s two goals sparked a rally from three down

and he scored in the shootout of a 5-4 win over the Islanders on

Tuesday.

“It’s the playoffs for us right now,” Ovechkin said after just

his second multigoal game of 2012. “Teams are fighting for those

spots, and we need these points.”

That also applies to the Jets (33-29-8), who trail Washington by

four points for the East’s final playoff spot. Both teams also hope

to catch division-leading Florida.

Winnipeg bounced back from a pair of road losses by beating

Dallas 5-2 on Wednesday, its third consecutive home victory. The

Jets have outscored their visitors 15-3 in that stretch, and

boosted their league-best home power play to 25.0 percent with

captain Andrew Ladd’s second-period goal.

Winnipeg has an East-best 38 points at home since Dec. 1.

“As the home team we feel like if we can get on top of teams

early and get momentum and get the crowd in it, then that first

goal’s huge and we’ve been able to do that a lot lately,” said

Ladd, who has seven goals and five assists in his last 10 games.

“Sometimes I think we play our best hockey against the top teams.

We seem to get up for those games and simplify more and get away

from the cute stuff.”

When the power play has clicked against the Capitals, Winnipeg

has fared well. It’s 4 for 8 with the man advantage in two wins

over Washington and 0 for 6 in a pair of losses, one of which came

in overtime.

Ladd has a goal and three assists against the Caps this season,

while Evander Kane has three goals. Kane has nine goals and eight

assists in his last 12 contests overall, and the Jets are 17-3-1

this season when he scores.

The Caps are 17-4-2 when Ovechkin scores, something he’s done in

his last two games in this series but just four times in 10

meetings since the start of last season.

Washington will get Mike Green back from a three-game suspension

Friday, and it will hope the offensive-minded defenseman can help

its power-play unit. The Caps are 3 for 36 with the man advantage

in their last 13 road games.

These teams will meet for a final time in the regular season

next Friday in the nation’s capital, Washington’s first game back

after the conclusion of this trip. After facing Winnipeg, the Caps

visit Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.