Capitals try to keep momentum going versus Red Wings
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals look to build on Wednesday's blowout of the Pittsburgh Penguins when they continue their five-game homestand Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Washington (10-4-2) moved into a second-place tie with the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division with a resounding 7-1 win. The victory followed a four-game stretch in which the Capitals had mustered only five goals.
Now the task will be to follow it up against Detroit (8-8-1), losers of two straight.
"There's been times in the last week or so where portions of games haven't been that bad. We're doing a few good things but it just wasn't sustained enough where tonight I thought we were pedal to the metal the whole way," Matt Niskanen said after Wednesday's victory. "Got a nice little homestand here ... hopefully look for some good results here."
Linemates Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie scored two goals apiece, while Dmitry Orlov, Justin Williams (his second goal of the season) and Alex Ovechkin (his first goal in five games) also tallied. After five games without a power-play goal, Washington netted two against Pittsburgh.
Backstrom, of one the game's best assist men, has three goals in two games.
"He's got a terrific shot," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's quick, it's accurate and it's very deceptive, so yes, I think anytime he gets a chance, (he should) not be afraid to shoot it because he shoots it pretty well."
After sitting for two games, a well-rested Braden Holtby lost his bid for his first shutout with just over three minutes remaining. He's 6-2, with a 1.97 goals- against average and .931 save percentage versus the Red Wings.
Detroit learned this week it will be without forward Darren Helm for at least six weeks after he suffered a shoulder injury in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay. He had four goals and three assists over 17 games. Riley Sheahan, still looking for his first goal of the season, could move into the third-line center spot.
"With Darren's injury, that could give some more opportunity to Riley," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit Free Press. "He had lots of opportunity early, and then his opportunity went away here in the last little bit. It's hard to produce when you don't get the opportunity."
Goalie Petr Mrazek (4-5-1, 3.16) has allowed four goals in each of his last four starts. Jimmy Howard (4-3, 1.80) could get the start Friday night, though he's 3-1-3 with 3.15 goals-against average and .890 save percentage versus the Capitals.
"Jimmy has played really good," Blashill said. "He's done what he has had to do in terms of putting up the numbers when given the opportunity, in terms of winning hockey games when you can and giving ourselves the best chance to win. Jimmy has made a good statement."
Whoever starts faces a Washington team that has three points in its last two games and appears locked in again on offense.
"We've just got to get the joy back in our game a little bit," Trotz said. "We know we can play more consistent, but at the same time understanding that we've got to keep building our game in certain areas."
Ovechkin has 10 goals and eight assists in 17 games versus Detroit.