High-Flying Ducks Drop into District
Dec. 8 vs. Anaheim Ducks at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: NewsChannel 8/Comcast SportsNet Plus
Radio: WTNT 570 AMAnaheim Ducks (21-3-6)Washington Capitals (12-9-6)
The Caps conclude a four-game homestand against the league?s elite teams on Friday when the Anaheim Ducks pay a rare call to Verizon Center. The Ducks boast the league?s best record, and they?ll be playing in the District for the first time since Oct. 29, 2003. Friday?s game is the first game of a five-game road trip for Anaheim.
Washington is riding a four-game winning streak, having defeated three straight 100-point teams from 2005-06 in each of the last three wins of that run. The Caps are 8-3 this season against teams that totaled 100 or more points in 2005-06.
The Capitals extended their streak to four (and three straight at home) with a convincing 6-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. It marked just the second time in the last 11 seasons and the first time since 1999-00 that the Capitals have swept the two-game home season series from the Senators.
?The Tampa game got us off on the right start,? says goaltender Olie Kolzig, referencing the first game in the current four-game run. ?We gave up way too many shots in that game, but since we?ve been at home here in the three games against three very good hockey teams, it wasn?t like we were hanging on and the goalie was bailing the team out. We were scoring goals and other than a few flurries here and there in games, we did a great job in shutting three very powerful teams down.?
A dozen different Caps have found the back of the net during the team?s current four-game streak. Washington has scored first in all four contests, has never trailed in any of the four games, and has never been tied after scoring the first goal. The Caps have outscored the opposition by a 9-1 count in the first period of the last four games.
With its recent run, Washington has slipped into third place in the NHL?s Southeast Division. The Caps trail front-running Atlanta by 10 points and they are three points behind second-place Carolina. Washington has two games in hand on the Thrashers and three on the Hurricanes.
When Washington last met the Ducks on Jan. 13 in Anaheim, Alex Ovechkin recorded his first career hat trick to give the Caps a 3-2 overtime victory. The Caps were able to get their young star out on the ice while Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer was on the bench for Ovechkin?s first two goals in that game. Niedermayer, who skated 25:59 that night, was on the ice for Ovechkin?s overtime game-winner in that January game.
With the Ducks? addition of Chris Pronger, it will be difficult to get Ovechkin isolated from one of those two blueline stalwarts. But the Caps have been getting a good deal of secondary scoring of late, something they?ll need on Friday against the Ducks.
?With one it?s still a challenge, but with two it is almost impossible,? says Caps coach Glen Hanlon of isolating Ovechkin from the Ducks? daunting defensive duo. ?You can work on it and try to do it, but there are so few minutes when both of them are not out there. It would totally disrupt everything. As coaches you just sort of say, ?Here?s the game. You?ve just got to meet the challenge and go play.??
The Capitals? power play unit ranks 14th in the NHL with a 16.4% success rate. Washington?s penalty killing corps ranks 18th in the league with a kill rate of 82.7%.
Anaheim is off to the best start in franchise history. The Ducks have claimed 48 of a possible 60 points through the first 30 games of the season. Prior to this season, Anaheim?s best start through 30 games was in 2002-03 when the team went 12-9-9 for a total of 33 points.
Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, a former Capitals assistant coach, led the team all the way to the Western Conference finals in 2005-06, his first season at the helm. The Ducks made a blockbuster trade last summer to bring in defenseman Chris Pronger from Edmonton. In Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, the Ducks boast two of the league?s top defensemen. One of those two blueliners is out on the ice at virtually any point during a given night.
Pronger has picked up at least a point in 11 of his last 12 games and leads all NHL defensemen in scoring with 31 points. Niedermayer has picked up an assist in each of his last five games, and is second among league blueliners in scoring with 26 points.
Veteran sniper Teemu Selanne has also been a big part of Anaheim?s success, especially recently. He notched just one goal in the month of October, the lowest total of any single month for his NHL career. But he rebounded with a vengeance in November and thus far in December. Selanne racked up 10 goals and 23 points in 15 November contests, and he has four goals and six points in three December tilts. He has seven goals in his last six games and 11 goals in his last 11 contests. Selanne is third in the NHL?s scoring race with 37 points.
Anaheim?s goaltending has also been very good. J-S Giguere, who backstopped the Ducks to within a game of the Stanley Cup championship in 2003, leads the NHL with 17 victories and is tied for the league lead with four shutouts.
The Ducks have won three straight games on the road an they?re 8-1-2 away from home this season.
Anaheim features the league?s second best power play unit with a 22.7% success rate. The Ducks rank eighth in the NHL in penalty killing with a kill rate of 86%.