NHL Game Of The Week Preview: Capitals Finish Season Series With Flyers in Sunday Matinee

fly.jpgPhoto: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals look to finish the season sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers when the two teams meet on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena. After a 5-3 victory against the Flyers on January 8 at home, the Capitals took another 5-3 decision at Wells Fargo Center on March 6 before beating the Flyers again by a score of 5-2 in the City of Brotherly Love eight days later. NBC will have the coverage beginning at 12:30 PM ET.

Flyers

After sitting with the worst record in the Eastern Conference on January 8, the Flyers have gone 20-8-2 over their last 30 games to climb five points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, though they look to gain some traction as they are currently 5-4-0 in their past nine games. They also have to jump over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are four points ahead of them in the Eastern Conference.

They wrap up a set of back-to-backs after falling by a score of 4-2 to the New York Islanders at home on Saturday. Philadelphia is 18-15-4 on the road this season. They have gone 3-6-0 in games that are the second of a back-to-back.

Forward Claude Giroux leads the Flyers with 60 assists (tied with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane for the sixth-most in the NHL this season) and 80 points this season. Since the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to the Capitals on March 14, the 31-year old has gone on a five-game assist-streak, where he has posted seven helpers in that span. Center Sean Couturier leads the Flyers with 31 goals this season.

The Flyers’ 55% winning percentage of draws leads the NHL. The biggest problem in Philadelphia this season has been keeping pucks out of their own net as they have allowed an average of 3.31 goals-against per game, the fifth-most in the NHL. In addition, their penalty-kill has an efficiency of just 79.3%, the 10th worst in the league this season. Their average of 3.01 goals-per-game is 14th in the NHL.

Since goaltender Carter Hart started in the Flyers’ 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Saturday, the Capitals will get Brian Elliott, who is 11-9-1 with a save percentage of .912, a goals-against average of 2.79, and one shutout this season, in goal on Sunday afternoon. In his career vs. the Capitals, the 33-year old is 8-6-0 with a save percentage of .890 and a goals-against average of 3.24. He made 15 saves before getting pulled in his lone appearance against the Capitals this season, which came in the Caps’ 5-3 win over the Flyers on March 6.

Capitals

The Capitals continue a four-game homestand on Sunday afternoon against the Flyers. After falling 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in an overtime thriller on Wednesday, the Capitals came up with a lackluster effort in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday, a game in which they were limited to 22 shots on goal. They are 21-10-6 at home this season.

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov is questionable for Sunday afternoon’s tilt after he missed the Capitals’ practice on Saturday due to illness. Forward Carl Hagelin, who missed Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Wild also due to illness, participated in practice on Saturday and will likely suit up against the Flyers. The Capitals recalled defenseman Tyler Lewington on Saturday in preparations for defenseman Michal Kempny, who left the second period of the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Lightning with a lower-body injury, to miss a significant period of time.

The Capitals enter Sunday one point ahead of the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with each team down to seven games remaining before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Captain Alex Ovechkin will take a third crack at hitting the 50-goal plateau for the eighth time in his NHL career on Sunday after failing to score in each of the past three games. The 33-year old leads the NHL with 48 goals and his team with 83 points this season. He was completely held off of the scoresheet against Minnesota for the first time in six games. Defenseman John Carlson leads the Capitals with 53 assists this season.

Friday’s loss marked the first time in 13 games in which the Capitals failed to score at least three goals. They have averaged 3.85 goals-per-game in that stretch and their average of 3.37 goals-per-game this season is the fifth-most in the NHL. The team has six forwards with at least 20 goals: Ovechkin, forward T.J. Oshie (22), forwards Jakub Vrana, Brett Connolly, and Tom Wilson (21 each), and Kuznetsov (20). Center Nicklas Backstrom has 18 goals this season.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 27-19-5 with a save percentage of .907, a goals-against-average of 2.94, and three shutouts this season, will start against the Flyers on Sunday afternoon. The 29-year old is 11-4-8 with a save percentage of .915, a goals-against average of 2.52, and two shutouts in 17 career games against the Flyers. He made 22 saves against the Flyers on March 15.

Shavings

  • Carlson enters Sunday two points shy of 400 career points
  • Connolly has four goals and seven points in his past five games
  • Backstrom has registered 53 points (18 goals) in 44 career games against the Flyers, the third most against any team

A Look Back In Time

Oshie and Vrana each notched a pair of tallies in the Capitals’ 5-3 victory over the Flyers on January 8. Wilson opened the scoring with his second goal in as many games. Goaltender Pheonix Copley made 37 saves in the win.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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