Capitals-Maple Leafs Preview

The Toronto Maple Leafs have earned all of their points on the


They’ll try to change that Thursday night when they face a

Washington Capitals team off to its worst start in nine years.

After getting outscored 8-1 in the third period of its previous

two games – both three-goal losses – Toronto improved to 3-1-0 as

the road team with a 4-3 overtime victory over Buffalo on


Matt Frattin scored his second goal of the game with 1.5 seconds

left in the extra period.

“I think we just try to come out quick (on the road) and try and

get the crowd out of it,” said Frattin, who has netted three goals

since being called up from the AHL last Thursday. “That’s something

we need to do in every building we go into.”

That includes Air Canada Centre, where the Maple Leafs (3-3-0)

will play their next three before opening a three-game trip Tuesday

against Washington (1-4-1). Ben Scrivens has given up nine goals in

Toronto’s two home losses, so coach Randy Carlyle may give James

Reimer the nod following Tuesday’s 29-save performance.

“Reims is playing really solid for us,” captain Dion Phaneuf

said. “… He’s been there to make the saves when we’ve had

letdowns and breakdowns.”

Reimer, though, went 0-2-0 with a 4.09 goals-against average

last season versus Washington, which won three of four matchups in

this series.

The Capitals have points in 11 of their last 13 games against

the Maple Leafs, but they make their only visit to Toronto this

season on the heels of Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Ottawa. Washington was

in good position to build on Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Sabres

but couldn’t hold an early two-goal lead.

“We took a lot of momentum out of our last game,” said center

Matt Hendricks, who scored 4:38 after Troy Brouwer’s goal in the

first period. “… We expected that momentum to continue, and I

think it did for 40 minutes. It’s almost hard to take a deep breath

in this league.”

That’s especially true given the condensed 48-game schedule. The

Capitals, whose start is their worst since winning once in their

first nine games of 2003-04, need to get Alex Ovechkin more

involved in rookie coach Adam Oates’ offense. The two-time Hart

Trophy winner is averaging a career-low 3.3 shots and has one goal,

which came Sunday, along with one assist.

Prior to this season, Ovechkin never had fewer than four points

in his first six games.

If Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel doesn’t score Thursday, it will

be the first time he’s gone his first seven games without a


Kessel and defenseman Cody Franson, who had a goal and an assist

Tuesday, each scored twice last season versus Washington.

Michal Neuvirth has done a decent job in net the last four

games, but with a three-game homestand starting Friday against

Philadelphia, Oates could give the nod to Braden Holtby.

Holtby, who hasn’t played since giving up 10 goals in the

Capitals’ first two games, made 35 saves in his only start against

the Maple Leafs, a 4-1 road victory Jan. 22, 2011.

A winner of three of four in Toronto, Washington is trying to

avoid opening with four straight road losses for the first time

since 1993-94.

The last time the Maple Leafs failed to win one of their first

three home games was 2009-10 (0-4-2).