Capitals-Avalanche Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 17, 2011
The Washington Capitals are gaining momentum, and Alex Ovechkin seems to have found his on the road. Semyon Varlamov may get a chance to end all that. Ovechkin and the Capitals go for a fourth win in five games Saturday night when they face their former goaltender and the Colorado Avalanche for the only time this season. Washington (16-13-1) has been among the league's most disappointing teams with 33 points, tying it with Montreal for 10th in the Eastern Conference. That led to the team firing coach Bruce Boudreau last month and replacing him with Dale Hunter. The Capitals have split eight games since the switch, but may finally be ready to put together an extended stretch of solid play. Washington won 1-0 at Winnipeg on Thursday for its fourth victory in six games. Ovechkin provided all the offense with 1:14 to play and helped his team rebound from a 5-1 home loss to conference-leading Philadelphia two days prior. "You feel good about yourself when you break through, especially after the last game we didn't play at all," Ovechkin said. Ovechkin has 10 goals and 22 points, with the majority of that production coming on the road. All but one of his goals have come away from home, including one in each of the last two road contests. Ovechkin has yet to score in back-to-back games this season, and doing so will likely require the superstar to beat his former teammate. Varlamov figures to face Washington for the first time since the team traded him to Colorado (14-17-1) last summer for two draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2012. Varlamov went 30-13-12 with a 2.39 goals-against average in three seasons with the Capitals, but struggled to live up to the lofty expectations created when he was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft. He's had a rocky start with the Avalanche, going 10-13-1 with a 3.14 GAA while compiling a 4.63 GAA in losing three of his last four games. Despite Varlamov's troubles, it doesn't appear he's likely to be supplanted by veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere as Colorado's No. 1 goaltender. Giguere is 4-4-0 with a 1.95 GAA in 10 games, but has a 3.90 GAA in three straight losses to the Capitals. Michal Neuvirth was Varlamov's chief rival in net during his time with Washington, and may get the nod opposite his former teammate after making 26 saves against the Jets. Hunter's other option is Tomas Vokoun, who was pulled from his most recent start Tuesday after allowing four goals on 21 shots through two periods against Philadelphia. He's lost five of his last seven road starts behind a 3.57 GAA, getting pulled twice. The Avalanche should be thrilled to open a four-game homestand after Thursday's 5-4 loss at San Jose extended their road losing streak to nine. "We all feel frustrated by the outcome," coach Joe Sacco told the team's official website after settling for a split of a home-and-home set with the Sharks. Colorado beat San Jose 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday, its fourth straight win at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche had a five-game run there from Feb. 2-12, 2010. Paul Stastny had two goals and an assist Thursday after tallying three points in his previous 10 games. He scored one goal and set up two others in a 3-2 win at Washington in the only matchup last season Dec. 11, 2010.
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