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Caps Back in Beantown to Face Bruins

March 6, 2014
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March 6 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden   

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: Comcast Sportsnet

Radio: Capitals Radio Network


Washington Capitals (29-24-10)

Boston Bruins (39-17-5)


Last Saturday, the Washington Capitals came into TD Garden and handed the Boston Bruins a 4-2 setback. Five nights later, the Caps are back in Beantown and hoping they can grab a couple more points from one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.


The Capitals have dropped two straight since they beat the Bruins, falling twice to the Philadelphia Flyers. Washington had the Flyers by two goals with 10 minutes left in the third period at Verizon Center on Sunday, but couldn’t close them out. The Caps fell 5-4 on a Vincent Lecavalier goal in overtime, a tally that ended Washington’s winning streak at a modest (but season’s best) four games.


Playing the back end of a home-and-home set with the Flyers on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the Capitals laid an egg. Washington snoozed through the first two periods, digging itself a four-goal deficit in the process. The coffee kicked in, but it was too little, too late against a good team. The Caps scored three times in the third period, but still fell 6-4.


“It was a lousy start after that, after the scuffle,” says Caps coach Adam Oates, referring to a bit of a line brawl midway through the first period of the game against the Flyers. “I thought we actually played better the last five minutes of the first period. We woke up and we talked about it between the periods.


“Even when we scored that second goal [early in the third period] I thought we were going to get into the game; it became a hockey game real quick, didn’t it? It’s funny how it can happen at times. There are so many different scripts for a game. You don’t expect it to be like that, but the good news is that we didn’t quit and we found something in our game that hopefully we can use for [Thursday].


“Hopefully we feel a little bit better from the last time we played in [Boston]. We played a good game. Hopefully the third period [of Wednesday’s game] helps a little bit. We’ve got to have a better start and get into the game.”


Dustin Penner made his Washington debut in Wednesday’s game against the Flyers. He was obtained from Anaheim on Tuesday in exchange for a fourth-round draft choice in the 2014 draft. The Caps made another significant swap on Wednesday just ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline.


That Wednesday deal sent goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla – acquired a day earlier in the deal that sent disgruntled forward Martin Erat to Phoenix – to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak and a third-round choice in the 2015 NHL Draft.


Halak will meet his new Washington teammates in Boston, and there is a strong likelihood that he will draw the start against the Bruins. Halak’s last start came on Feb. 26 when he made 34 saves in a 1-0 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver in his last game as a member of the St. Louis Blues.


The Blues dealt Halak to Buffalo last Friday as part of a package for goaltender Ryan Miller, and the Sabres flipped Halak to Washington five days later.


Halak has had good success against the Bruins over the years. He is 8-3 in 11 career starts against Boston, with two shutouts, a 1.86 GAA and a .942 save pct. In six career starts at TD Garden, Halak is 4-2 with a 2.25 GAA and a .934 save pct.


Washington has had reasonable success in Boston’s barn of late; they’re 6-3 in their last nine regular season visits here and they won three playoff games at TD Garden in the spring of 2012. But the Caps are playing the second night of back-to-backs on Thursday, and the second game of five contests in seven nights.


Since last Saturday’s loss to the Capitals, Boston has drubbed the Rangers 6-3 in New York and forged a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. The Bruins have been idle since Tuesday’s triumph over the Panthers. Boston is 2-1-1 since returning from the Olympic break, and the front-running B’s currently enjoy an eight-point cushion over the second-place Montreal Canadiens.


Boston made one move in the hours leading up to Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline. The Bruins dealt a third-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for veteran defenseman Andrej Meszaros.


Meszaros struggled to stay healthy last season, but rebounded and was a serviceable third-pair guy for the Flyers this season, and he’ll be counted on to help provide depth for the Bruins over the final quarter of the season. Although his workload has dwindled over the last few seasons down to a career low average of 17:22 per night this season, Meszaros brings 571 games worth of regular season NHL experience, and he was routinely a 20-minute a night player for six straight seasons prior to his injury-plagued 2012-13 campaign.


Boston is without top pair defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the remainder of the 2013-14 season, an injury that necessitated the acquisition of Meszaros.