|NHL Hockey: Washington at Toronto|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Saturday, 23 December 2006 04:48|
Underdog Capitals Still Aren't Favored by Bettors Despite Toronto's Injuries
Toronto is not expected to have playmaking center Michael Peca in the lineup when it meets Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.
Peca suffered a serious right knee injury in the Maple Leafs' 3-1 loss to Chicago on Friday when he collided with the Blackhawks' Jim Vandemeer late in the first period. While Peca had to be helped off the ice, Vandemeer received a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct.
Peca left the arena on crutches while wearing an air cast, and coach Paul Maurice didn't sound optimistic.
``We're not going to know until the doctors get a better look inside,'' Maurice said. ``This is not day-to-day. It's a bad injury.''
Peca had just four goals this season, but two were game-winners. He joins fellow injured Leafs Alexei Ponikarovsky (separated shoulder) and Kyle Wellwood (hip flexor), who both sat out the loss to the Blackhawks.
Johnny Pohl's power-play goal accounted for all the Maple Leafs' offense, and Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 22 saves in the defeat.
With 37 points, Toronto (16-15-5) is in third place in the Northeast Division, but just one point in front of fourth-place Boston and two ahead of Ottawa for last place.
Peca, Ponikarovsky and Wellwood combined for two goals and two assists in the Maple Leafs' 7-1 rout of Washington on Nov. 24. With those three key players out, Toronto has to try and match up against Ovechkin, the reigning rookie of the year who has registered at least one point whenever he's faced the Leafs.
Ovechkin scored Washington's only goal in the loss to Toronto last month. In five career games against the Maple Leafs, he's recorded six goals - five on the power play - and one assist.
Ovechkin had points in eight straight games overall coming into Friday's macthup with New Jersey, but the Devils' defense managed to shut him down and the Capitals fell 4-1.
It was just the eighth time this season that Ovechkin was held without a point, and the first since Nov. 30, a 4-3 loss to Dallas. Washington (15-12-7) is 2-6-0 this season when Ovechkin fails to score a point.
``He's dangerous and the guys did a good job on him,'' New Jersey's Sergei Brylin said of Ovechkin. ``It's like against any other great player. You've got to be sharp because he's going to try to beat you one-on-one.''
The Capitals also are dealing with injuries, as defensemen John Erskine and Bryan Muir will be out indefinitely with foot fractures. Erskine is tied with Donald Brashear for the team lead with 56 penalty minutes, and Muir has three goals and five points in 19 games.
Washington ended a five-game winless streak in Toronto on Feb. 28, and will try to post consecutive wins there for the first time since a three-game run from February 1997-January 1999.
by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us
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