Wild-Capitals Preview

BY foxsports • February 26, 2016

The honeymoon for John Torchetti is over, and Minnesota is back to scoring goals at the rate that got Mike Yeo fired.

It seems unlikely to change Friday night in Washington without Zach Parise as the Wild take on a Capitals team that's allowed the fewest goals in the league and hasn't lost consecutive games in regulation in nearly a full year.

Torchetti won his first four games after taking over with 21 goals scored. Since, the Wild (27-24-10) have totaled three in consecutive losses with Thursday's 3-2 defeat in Philadelphia beginning a back-to-back set.

The NHL-leading Capitals (44-11-4), meanwhile, are coming off Wednesday's 4-3 home loss to Montreal and are out to avoid their first consecutive regulation losses since March 11 and 13. Washington trailed 3-0 early in the second period and 4-1 entering the third, coming just short of sending it to overtime as its four-game winning streak came to an end. The Capitals trailed in each of those victories.

"We can't come back every night," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's not going to happen. We have to play a better 60-minute game."

The Capitals have been more vulnerable with 2.87 goals allowed per game over an 11-4-1 span after posting a 2.09 mark though 43 games, but they might have a new defenseman in the lineup against the Wild to help combat that. Washington acquired Mike Weber from Buffalo on Tuesday for a third-round pick in the 2017 draft.

Weber, who was in his eighth season with the Sabres, had a plus-3 rating in 35 games for a team with a minus-23 goal differential.

"Mike is a stay-at-home defenseman, who plays a physical game and is respected by his teammates," Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We felt it was important to add depth to our blue line by adding another quality veteran defenseman."

The Capitals were the second to last team Yeo faced before Minnesota made the change with Washington winning 4-3 on Feb. 11 behind a second-period hat trick from Alex Ovechkin. It's part of a nine-game stretch on which he's scored 10 goals, and the NHL's top goal scorer has nine in his last seven contests with the Wild, including five in his last two.

That three-goal team effort for the Wild matched their best output over the 2-11-3 span on which they averaged 1.87 per game that pushed Yeo out the door, so it's really no surprise things have regressed from their winning streak. Torchetti, however, isn't yet hanging it on his team.

"I liked our effort," Torchetti said. "I just think their goalie was really good tonight. He made a couple of really big saves. I think we should've been playing into overtime."

Thomas Vanek still managed to score for the third time in four games after managing one in his previous 13 and tied Parise for the team lead with 18. Parise missed the game with an upper-body injury and is expected to remain out for at least one more.

Braden Holtby probably won't mind that as he tries to bounce back from allowing three goals on 18 shots before being removed in the second period against the Canadiens. He avoided the loss, though he's 5-1-0 with a 3.28 goals-against average over his last seven games.

Devan Dubnyk has also experienced some struggles lately, going 3-6-0 with a 3.12 GAA this month. He's 0-3-1 on zero days rest this season, though that's mostly because the Wild have scored seven goals in those games. He's won both of his career trips to Washington.

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