Jets-Capitals Preview

The Washington Capitals are back in first place in the Southeast

Division, and a visit from the Winnipeg Jets could help them stay

there.

The Capitals will try to maintain their divisional lead by

continuing their home dominance of the Jets on Thursday night.

Washington (28-21-4) moved one point ahead of Florida as Tomas

Vokoun posted his second shutout in three games Tuesday. Vokoun

stopped 42 shots against his former team, and Alex Ovechkin scored

twice in the 4-0 victory over the Panthers.

“We knew what was on the line tonight,” coach Dale Hunter said.

“These are four-point games, playoff games, and we’re battling with

Florida.”

The Capitals will battle to stay in first place again Thursday

while the Panthers are hosting Los Angeles. Washington, though,

might have an advantage with the Jets (25-24-6) visiting the

Verizon Center.

The Capitals have won 10 of the past 11 home games against that

franchise, including a 4-3 overtime victory Nov. 23. Vokoun stopped

22 shots to outduel Ondrej Pavelec, and Jason Chimera scored his

second goal 1:52 into the extra session.

Washington also topped the Jets 1-0 in Manitoba on Dec. 15, with

Ovechkin tallying the lone goal. Michal Neuvirth recorded his first

of two shutouts this season while helping the Capitals take a 2-1-0

lead in the season series.

Winnipeg enters this game with a 6-10-1 record in 2012, but it

managed to avoid a third straight defeat Tuesday by topping Toronto

2-1 at home. Pavelec stopped 17 shots, and Bryan Little provided

the tiebreaking score in the second period.

That goal was only the seventh in the past seven games for the

Jets, with most of those struggles taking place during a six-game

road stretch.

Winnipeg hasn’t scored more than two goals in its last eight

games away from home, totaling eight over that 3-5-0 stretch.

“We haven’t been good on the road, but hopefully this win will

kind of set things in motion,” Little said. “We have another big

road trip (a two-gamer) coming up, and we need these points. Every

game is going to be important for us.”

The Capitals also need points to keep from possibly dropping

from third in the Eastern Conference to ninth, where Florida

currently resides. The Jets are in 10th and trail the Panthers by

three points.

Winnipeg center Kyle Wellwood won’t be available to help his

team try to close that gap as he’s suffering from flu-like symptoms

and is not on the trip, which ends Saturday against Pittsburgh.

Wellwood has a team-best four points against the Capitals this

season with two goals and two assists.

Ovechkin has scored more goals (31) and recorded more points

(65) against the Jets franchise than against any other opponent. He

has a goal and an assist in the three games this season.

Pavelec might be in net to try to stop the Capitals star and his

teammates. He’s been pretty successful at that lately, going 4-1-1

with a 1.16 goals-against average in his last six starts against

Washington.

Vokoun, meanwhile, is 3-3-1 with a 2.90 GAA in his last eight

matchups, and Neuvirth had allowed a combined 15 goals in his

previous four starts against the Jets before the shutout in

December.