Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WTEM 980 AM
Atlanta Thrashers (3-1-1)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1)
For the second straight Saturday night, the Washington Capitals will host a Southeast Division opponent at Verizon Center. This Saturday brings the Atlanta Thrashers to the District for Alex Ovechkin Calder Trophy Tribute Night.
Saturday?s game against Atlanta is the first of four straight games against Southeast foes for the Caps. Washington downed the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes in its first Southeast battle of the season, a 5-2 victory in the home opener at Verizon Center last Saturday.
The Caps come into Saturday?s game on the heels of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Wild in Minnesota. Both regulation goals against in that game came while the Wild were on the power play. The Caps killed off three Minnesota power plays late in the third to salvage a point, but gave the Wild 10 power play chances on the evening. Washington had allowed but eight power play chances in its first two games combined.
After spending the last two seasons skating in the Russian Super League, Alexander Semin is back with the Capitals and making his presence felt. Semin has scored in each of Washington?s three games this season, and he notched a hat trick in the win over Carolina.
Semin is the eighth Capital to notch a goal in each of the season?s first three games. With a goal against the Thrashers on Saturday, he can join Dennis Maruk (1979-80) and Mike Gartner (1987-88] as just the third Capital ever to score a goal in each of the season?s first four games.
Semin and Ovechkin have accounted for seven of Washington?s nine goals to date this season. One of the two has had a hand in eight of the Caps? nine goals, and the Russian duo has combined to record 35 of Washington?s 88 shots on goal (39.8%) this season.
The Capitals were 3-4-1 against Atlanta last season. The Thrashers outscored Washington by a 39-26 margin in those eight contests. The Caps gained a measure of revenge when the Thrashers visited D.C. for the season?s penultimate game, needing a win to stave off mathematical elimination from the playoffs. The Caps won a 6-4 barnburner to eliminate the Thrashers from playoff contention.
Washington is now 3-for-22 (13.6%) on the power play and is 15-for-18 (83.3%) on the penalty kill this season.
Atlanta fell just short of earning its first ever playoff berth last season. An opening night groin injury to goaltender Kari Lehtonen ultimately doomed Atlanta?s chances. Lehtonen missed the better part of three months, and the Thrashers were never able to adequately replace him.
Over the summer, Atlanta general manager Don Waddell inked two veteran NHL backups, Johan Hedberg and Freddie Brathwaite. The Thrashers are keeping both on the roster rather than taking the risk of exposing one of them to waivers. Lehtonen spent the summer in Atlanta, working on strengthening his core. Between Lehtonen?s improved conditioning and the Thrashers? improved depth at the position, Atlanta figures to be much better off in goal this season.
Bruising blueliner Vitaly Vishnevski was added in a trade with Anaheim just prior to the start of training camp. The Thrashers lost elite setup man Marc Savard to free agency, but hope that a committee of veteran Steve Rucchin, up-and-coming Finn Niko Kapanen and journeymen Glen Metropolit and Jon Sim can help make up for Savard?s lost production.
Metropolit is a former Cap who totaled 10 goals and 47 points in 101 games over parts of four seasons with Washington. Along with vaunted triggermen Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa, Sim is one of several noted Cap-killers on the Atlanta roster.
Nine of Atlanta?s first 10 games this season are against fellow Southeast Division denizens. The Thrashers face each of the other four Southeast clubs at least twice during the month of October.
The Thrashers went 3-0-1 in their first four outings this season. Atlanta hosted Carolina on Friday night, coming into the game with a three-game winning streak during which it outscored the opposition by a combined total of 11-1. A last second deflection by Carolina?s Ray Whitney ended that streak, as the Thrashers suffered a 4-3 setback to the Canes.
Atlanta is 5-for-26 (19.2%) on the power play thus far this season, but has managed just one goal in its last 14 power play tries. The Thrashers have successfully snuffed out 28 of 30 (93.3%) of the opposition?s power play chances in 2006-07.