The Capitals (29-26-5, 63 points) host the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens (24-27-10, 58 points) in an almost must win game tonight. The Caps are three points out of the last play off spot in the Eastern Conference and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for first in the Southeast Division, but the Jets have played in three more games than the Caps.
Alex Ovechkin, who missed last game with a lower body injury, says he’s “ready-to-go” for tonight. Ovechkin skated before practice in shorts, gloves, shirt and a stick, but did come back out for the morning skate in full pads and lasted about 15 minutes before coming off.
“Last night I didn’t feel well, today I feel normal,” Ovechkin said.
Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter confirmed that Alex Ovechkin will be in the line up tonight. The Caps are 1-2-1 without Ovechkin this season.
Brooks Laich, Dennis Wideman and Alexander Semin were the only Caps who didn’t take part in the optional morning skate today. Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine are the Caps likely scratches tonight.
“He’s a professional, he’s practicing hard and he’s just waiting his time,” Hunter said on Hamrlik. “Just like Schultzy [Jeff Schultz] waited his time and its what you do when you get in.”
This will be Hamrlik’s second straight healthy scratch.
With Ovechkin healthy enough to play, the Caps will scratch a forward and Keith Aucoin could be that guy.
Michal Neuvirth (6-9-3, 3.01 GAA, .897 Save pct.) is likely in goal tonight for the Caps. This will be Neuvirth’s first home start since December 20th and his first overall start since February 12th in New York against the Rangers.
Neuvirth shut out the Canadiens on January 18th in Montreal, stopping all 31 shots.
The Caps have gone seven games without a first period goal and six games since they have scored the first goal.
“If you read the stats whoever get’s the lead has a good chance of winning,” Hunter said on the importance getting a good start tonight. “We got to have a good start and we got to play smart, no turnovers and no bad penalties early.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer had to say following the morning skate today.
Dale Hunter Morning Skate Audio
Alex Ovechkin Morning Skate Audio
Troy Brouwer Morning Skate Audio