Preview and GDT: Capitals at Leafs (7 p.m., Sportsnet)


Can the Leafs pounce on the struggling Washington Capitals and grab their first pair of home points? Are the Leafs capable of pouncing on anybody? We’ll find out tonight.

The Capitals have just three points through their opening six and are winless on the road. With the Leafs winless at home, something will have to give tonight. The Capitals opened the season by losing three straight by a collective score of 14-5 before losing two of three in a string of 3-2 games.

Alex Ovechkin has just two points in six games so far this season, and he and Phil Kessel should probably partake in a heart to heart. Both scoring wingers are shooting lots but struggling to find the net, and Kessel can lend a sympathetic ear about the pressures of trying to score with Joey Crabb on the opposite wing. I shouldn’t make that joke, because I’ve just guaranteed a Crabb goal tonight. Let’s face it, it was probably going to happen anyway.

The Capitals have recently spread out their offensive weapons over their top nine in an effort to kickstart the offense. Niklas Backstrom, who has just three points, has been playing on the second line between Wojitek Wolski and Troy Brouwer, while Mike Ribero, their leading point getter with six, has been playing the third between Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. Ribeiro, Backstrom, Ovechkin and Mike Greene form a dangerous looking PP unit (with Ovechkin in his usual spot on the point), but the Caps have only mustered a 16% success rate on the PP so far.

The Leafs have recalled Marlies captain Ryan Hamilton to replace the fallen Mike Brown, who is out a week with a shoulder strain sustained when he fell to the ice fighting Mike Weber on Tuesday. Hamilton was recently named MVP after scoring a hat trick in the AHL All Star game. I’d like to see Carlyle roll four lines a little more and move away from some of the top-heavy allocation of minutes. Hamilton brings an effective power forward’s game with a goal scoring touch around the net for the Marlies (18 goals in 38 games), and might have some use outside of a 3-minute-a-game energy role.

As pointed out over at PPP:

In last Thursday’s epic 3rd period collapse against the Islanders, the Leafs had six (6) players log over 21 minutes of icetime. The Islanders had only two (2) over 21 minutes and it showed with four (4) 3rd period goals scored against a seemingly helpless Leafs team.

If you check out the Marlies’ scoring leaders, it’s a sad state of affairs in terms of the decimation of their depth, but that’s life for an AHL affiliate.

Hamilton will play with Steckel and Orr on the fourth line. The lineup is otherwise untouched from Tuesday’s OT win in Buffalo, as MacArthur (out with the finger injury) and Komisarek (healed enough to play, but scratched) remain out:

Lineup vs. Washington:

van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
McClement – Grabovski – Kulemin
Frattin – Kadri – Komarov
Hamilton – Steckel – Orr

Phaneuf – Kostka
Gunnarsson – Liles
Fraser – Franson


Capitals’ lineup:

Alex Ovechkin – Jay Beagle – Joey Crabb
Wojtek Wolski – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mike Ribeiro – Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks – Marcus Johansson – Eric Fehr

Karl Alzner – Mike Green
John Erskine – John Carlson
Jeff Schultz – Tomas Kundratek

Michael Neuvirth