TAMPA, FLA - Beginning tonight in Tampa, the Capitals will face the Lightning and Florida Panthers a combined five times over the next 19 days. Four of those five meetings are on the road, where the Caps are 8-13-2.
Its down to crunch time, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. Every point means a lot, and all these games become like playoff games.
Playoff games in January and February? For the Capitals? This is a whole new world for a team that in each if the last four seasons spent the final few months of the regular seasons in cruise control.
If there is one clear-cut goal for the Caps in the second half of the season, its becoming a better team on the road. They begin their post-All-Star schedule with trips to Tampa, Florida and Montreal, followed by a three-game homestand against Boston, Florida and Winnipeg.
Will their five-day All-Star break be the perfect remedy for a rather ordinary first half of the season?
I guess well find out, Capitals center Brooks Laich said. Were excited to get back. Guys enjoyed the break, spent some time away from hockey to see family and friends. Everybody was on the ice 20 minutes before practice on Monday. Were excited, and these are big hockey games for us.
Tampa is a team still trying to make up ground, and Florida is a big battle. We have to start winning on the road, and theres no better way to do it than against division teams.
In the past, weve been a dominant road team. We want to get back to being that team. Its not acceptable to play one way at home and another way on road. We need to take baby steps, start with one-goal games and build it up to controlling games.