Maybe Change is Good

The Washington Capitals have been among the league's best teams since changing coaches two months ago. The Toronto Maple Leafs hope a change in general managers yields similar results.

The Capitals seek their first five-game win streak in nearly seven years Wednesday night when they visit the Maple Leafs, who play their first game under interim general manager Cliff Fletcher.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Toronto -122 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 6 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington +112 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

When the Capitals (22-21-5) fired coach Glen Hanlon and replaced him on an interim basis with Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 22, they were a league-worst 6-14-1 and had the franchise's lowest 21-game point total since 1981-82.

Under Boudreau, who had the interim tag dropped Dec. 22, Washington has gone 16-7-4, rising from last in the Southeast Division to within three points of first-place Carolina heading into play Tuesday night. Boudreau has won 16 games faster than any coach in team history.

The Capitals are one of 13 teams ahead of Toronto (19-22-8) in the Eastern Conference standings. In line to miss the playoffs for a third straight season, the Maple Leafs fired GM John Ferguson on Tuesday and replaced him with Cliff Fletcher.

"After full consideration of the Leafs' situation, it has become clear that change and a new direction is needed,'' Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement.

The 72-year-old Fletcher, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is no stranger to the Maple Leafs. He served as the team's president, chief operating officer and GM from 1991-97.

``I know here in Toronto the expectations are high,'' Fletcher said. ``I look forward to the challenge and a few tough months ahead.''

Toronto had a three-game win streak snapped Sunday with a 3-2 loss at New Jersey. The Leafs are 4-8-0 in their last 12.

"We played good hockey these last four games,'' captain Mats Sundin said. "We played against one of the best teams in the conference. We had a lot of chances and, in the third period, we totally dominated them.''

Washington continued its surge with a 6-5 shootout victory Monday at Pittsburgh, as Alexander Ovechkin scored twice in regulation and again in the shootout.

Viktor Kozlov also scored two goals and rookie Nicklas Backstrom added four assists as the Capitals moved within one win of their first five-game run since March 3-11, 2001.

Ovechkin, who has goals in five straight games, got the best of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, a fellow rising Russian star who had two goals and an assist.

"I just play for the team. It doesn't matter if you're Russian or Canadian,'' Ovechkin said. "It's a game, and I think nobody has friends on the ice.''

Washington, which hasn't lost back-to-back games in regulation under Boudreau, has scored four or more goals eight times in the last 10 contests. The 3.48 goals per game the Capitals have averaged under Boudreau would be first in the league.

Ovechkin has received plenty of support lately from Backstrom, the first rookie in NHL history with four or more assists in consecutive games.

Mike Green has six goals and six assists in nine games this month, and leads NHL defensemen with 14 goals.

Making Washington's recent play even more impressive is the absences of several key players. Missing from Monday's lineup were captain Chris Clark (groin), top center Michael Nylander (shoulder) and defensemen Shaone Morrisonn (foot) and Brian Pothier (concussion).

Morrisonn and Clark are day-to-day while Nylander and Pothier are on injured reserve.

Ovechkin scored twice in Washington's 7-1 victory at Toronto on Oct. 29. The Capitals have won three of the last four overall meetings and three of their last four visits to Air Canada Centre.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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