Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 9:45 PM
NHL.comBRUINS (32-16-2) at CAPITALS (27-20-4)
TV: NBC (HD)
LAST 10 :
Boston 4-5-1; Washington 5-3-2
It's the second of four meetings this season. The Caps and Bruins completed the pre-All Star portion of their schedules on Jan. 24 when Washington beat Boston 5-3 at the Verizon Center.
For the third straight year, the Caps are home for a Super Bowl Sunday matinee -- though unlike the past two, the Boston Bruins are providing the opposition. The Caps, one of the NHL's best home teams, are back at the Verizon Center after Saturday's 3-0 win at Montreal and may be catching the Bruins at the right time -- the B's are in a bit of a funk, losing three of four in a stretch that began with the loss to the Caps 12 days ago.
For most of December and January, the Bruins rode roughshod over almost everyone, rebounding from a 3-7-0 start to move back among the NHL's elite. But they've hit a bump in the road with three losses in four games, including back-to-back defeats at home to Carolina on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Though his team had just 28 shots against the Penguins in Saturday's 2-1 loss, coach Claude Julien said he was much more pleased with his team's effort than he was in Thursday's 3-0 loss -- a game in which they fired 47 shots at Cam Ward.
"I think the fact that we were better tonight than we were the other night is an improvement," Julien said. "I thought we played a lot harder than we had. And it's like anything else. When you're struggling, you don't just come in the next night and all of a sudden everything's fixed. Same thing when you're winning yet your play is starting to slip. You're still winning hockey games before it catches up.
The Caps are just 2-2-2 in their last six games, but they were excellent defensively and got superb goaltending by Tomas Vokoun in Saturday afternoon's 3-0 win at Montreal -- their third straight shutout win at the Bell Centre. The victory kept them two points behind Toronto for eighth place in the East
"We needed the two points and we play pretty good game," Vokoun said after his third shutout of the season. "We play smart and we were fortunate enough to get a one-goal lead and play smart road game."
Caps forward Alexander Semin had a penalty-shot goal and an assist on Saturday, giving him five points in Washington's last five games.
Boston is missing forward Nathan Horton
(concussion). … Washington is missing center Nicklas Backstrom (concussion); defensemen Mike Green and Tom Poti are still out with groin injuries.
Don't expect any third-period comebacks if one team leads after 30 minutes. Boston is a perfect 21-0-0 when leading after two periods; Washington is 16-0-0.
Alex Ovechkin looked a little rusty Saturday in his first game back after a three-game suspension sandwiched around the All-Star break. He had just one shot on goal in 19:57 of ice time and gave the puck away to Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges when he had a prime scoring chance.
But the unwanted vacation has Ovechkin eager to take the ice against thee Bruins.
"I can't wait to play (Sunday)," Ovechkin said. "I feel good, I feel fresh, and that's what I missed for 10 days."