The Capitals only have nine games left and (37-30-6, 80 points) travel to Philadelphia to play the Flyers (42-23-8, 92 points) in the final game of the Caps five game road trip (2-2). The Caps start a three game homestand tomorrow against the Winnipeg Jets and end it against the Buffalo Sabres with the Minnesota Wild in the middle.
The Sabres have tied the Caps for the last and final playoff spot in Eastern Conference, but the Caps have a game in hand. The Caps are also five points behind the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division and both teams have played the same number of games. Also the Caps are four points behind the Ottawa Senators for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand while the Winnipeg Jets are four points behind the Caps with the same number of games played.
One huge question mark tonight is the availability of Caps forward Alexander Semin. Semin (18 goals, 28 assists) didn’t take the morning skate today and also didn’t skate the previous two days.
Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said on Semin, “Still has maintenance right now”. Hunter then was asked if Semin would play tonight and called it a “game-time” decision and added that “we’ll see” if he takes warm ups.
Hunter said Joel Ward, who was a healthy scratch last game, will take warm ups if Semin can’t go tonight.
Since it was an optional morning skate, Alex Ovechkin and Dennis Wideman were the only two not to take part. Everyone else was on the ice including Tomas Vokoun (groin injury) who was testing it out. Still no timetable for Vokoun’s return.
Hunter would not say who would be in goal tonight, but Braden Holtby (1-1-0, 4.03 GAA, .882 Save pct.) comes off a big win in Detroit and could be making his third start of the season tonight. Also the Caps host the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow in a big playoff implication game, so that could also factor into the decision.
If Semin can’t go tonight, this could be what the forward lines looks like against the Flyers: Ovechkin-Laich-Brouwer, Johansson-Aucoin-Knuble, Chimera-Perreault-Ward, Hendricks-Halpern-Beagle.
Defenseman John Erskine and Dmitry Orlov took the extra skate today and are likely the healthy scratches.
Ilya Bryzgalov (30-14-7, 2.48 GAA, .910 Save pct.) will be in goal for the Flyers. Bryzgalov is 8-1-1 in his last ten games and shutout the Caps 1-0 in their last meeting.
The Flyers are 7-2-1 in their last ten games, but have struggled against the Caps lately. The Caps are 7-2-3 in their last twelve games overall against the Flyers and 8-1-2 in their last eleven road games against the Flyers. This season the Flyers are 2-1-0 against the Caps while the Caps are 1-2-0 against the Flyers.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby had to say following the morning skate today.
Dale Hunter Morning Skate Audio
Alex Ovechkin Morning Skate Audio
Braden Holtby Morning Skate Audio