Morning Mashup: Leafs in Washington

Jordan Staal Wide Open
Photo: MLHS

There’s no time to lick our collective wounds over a poor 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes; the Leafs square off against The Washington Capitals tonight (7pm, Leafs TV).

Here is the‘s preview for the game:

Season series: Second of three meetings, also the second in five days. Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin scored third-period goals as the Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Capitals 3-2 at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 31.

Big story: Both teams are struggling to score goals, and until that changes for Washington all eyes will be directed at Alex Ovechkin. With the Capitals tied for 25th in scoring at 2.33 goals per game, it’s hard to ignore that Ovechkin has just two goals and two assists this season, and only one assist at even strength. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are still waiting on Phil Kessel’s first goal this season.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: This marks the beginning of a three-game road trip for Toronto, which dropped its previous two games on home ice and scored just a single goal in the process. That came in the first period Monday night, when Frattin opened the scoring against the Hurricanes, but the Maple Leafs couldn’t build on the lead despite peppering Cam Ward with 42 shots, and it eventually vanished in a 4-1 defeat.

“You want to win at home. You come home and this is the place you want to win,” goalie James Reimer said. “I’m not quite sure what the reason is and I don’t know if anybody does have the reason.

“It’s the million-dollar question and we don’t like it. We don’t like it one bit. This is where we want to win.”

Capitals: Braden Holtby was stellar last Friday in defeating Philadelphia, stopping 29 of 31 shots, so Washington coach Adam Oates went right back to him for Sunday’s matinee against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Holtby reverted to the player who yielded 10 goals in his first two starts and then sat the next five games in favor of Michal Neuvirth. He gave up a pair of goals 37 seconds apart in the middle period that turned the tide in a 6-3 loss for the Capitals.

“Obviously it’s a momentum changer,” Holtby told the team’s official website. “Probably the [go-ahead goal] especially. I feel like it’s well within my capabilities to make that save. Those are the ones where if you are going to win games, that’s where momentum changes. I would have liked to come up with that save, but I’ll make sure I do next time.”

Who’s hot: Frattin now has five goals in his last six games for the Maple Leafs. … Nicklas Backstrom has a goal and four assists during a four-game points streak for the Capitals. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist Sunday, his fourth multi-point game this season.

Injury report: Toronto forward Mike Brown (upper body) and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (lower body) are day-to-day. Forward Joffrey Lupul (broken forearm) is on injured reserve. … Washington forward Brooks Laich (groin) and defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) are on injured reserve. Defenseman John Erskine is serving a three-game suspension for an elbowing incident last week against Philadelphia.


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