NHL Preview: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals – Caps Favored
The league-worst Flyers will try to avoid being swept in a season series by the Capitals for first time Tuesday when the teams face off at Verizon Center.
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Philadelphia (11-27-4) had dominated Washington (18-17-7) for nearly a decade, going 21-6-2 with one tie in the last 30 meetings prior to this season. The Flyers have never lost every meeting to the Capitals in a single season in a series that dates back to 1974-75, but that run could end Tuesday.
Washington posted a pair of 5-3 victories at Philadelphia on Nov. 4 and Dec. 9, respectively, before claiming a 4-1 win at home on Dec. 16.
Star left wing Alex Ovechkin has done the majority of the damage for the Caps with four goals and four assists against the Flyers this season. He has goals in six straight games versus Philadelphia dating to his 2005-06 rookie season.
Ovechkin had a goal and an assist and Alexander Semin scored his second goal of the game with 17.7 seconds left in overtime Saturday, lifting Washington to a 3-2 victory over Atlanta.
"I have a bunch of chances to score on wristers. When you’re up close against the goalie, you can’t do anything else but go to the backhand," Semin said through an interpreter.
It was the second consecutive win after a five-game losing streak for the Capitals, who hope to get one of their injured players back Tuesday.
Right wing Matt Bradley, who has missed 14 games with a broken finger, could return. Left wing Richard Zednik (abdominal surgery) and defensemen Bryan Muir and John Erskine, both out with a broken foot, will remain sidelined.
Semin and Ovechkin each scored power-play goals Saturday, marking the first time in seven games that Washington scored multiple goals with the man advantage. The Caps were just 4-for-36 on the power play over six games before Saturday.
The Flyers turned in one of their worst performances of the season Sunday, getting outshot 43-21 in their third straight loss, 6-1 at Ottawa.
"Terrible," was how Flyers coach John Stevens described the outing. "We put up a fight for 10 minutes, then there was no fight after that."
Goaltender Antero Niittymaki was left virtually alone to face 43 shots in his first appearance after a groin injury forced him to miss three games.
"I let in six goals, so I don’t think I competed hard, but I don’t think there were too many guys who competed hard," said Niittymaki, 0-10-1 in his last 11 starts since his last victory on Nov. 30.
Top center Peter Forsberg was not in the lineup due to a groin injury Sunday, dropping the Flyers to 0-12-3 this season without their captain.
Forsberg’s status is up in the air for Tuesday, but right wing Mike Knuble doesn’t want to use his absence as an excuse.
"I think it would benefit us the most if we went into the games mentally without him in the lineup," Knuble told the team’s official Web site. "If he shows up, it’s a bonus, and then hopefully it will be a great day. But, we can still have a lot of good days without him."
Robert Esche likely will start in goal for the Flyers Tuesday. He is 5-2-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average lifetime against the Capitals.
by: Gary Roberts – theSpread.com – Email Us
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