Caps Top-10 games: No.5 Varly, Avs return to DC

Caps Top-10 games: No.5 Varly, Avs return to DC
September 1, 2014, 12:15 pm
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Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates talks with Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during a timeout against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period at Verizon Center. The Penguins won 3-2.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Earlier this offseason we learned the Capitals entire slate of games for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign and highlighted some of the notable match-ups and storylines. Now we go a bit deeper by counting down the 10 most interesting contests.

GAME No. 10: Capitals vs. Blues, Sun. Feb. 1

GAME No. 9: Capitals vs. Rangers, Wed. Mar. 11

GAME No. 8: Capitals at Islanders, Mon. Dec. 29

GAME No. 7: Capitals vs. Kings, Tue. Feb. 3

GAME No. 6: Capitals vs. Predators, Sat. Mar. 28

GAME No. 5: Capitals vs. Avalanche, Mon. Jan. 12

The interest:Less than two weeks after the Capitals host the Blackhawks at the Bridgestone Winter Classic, the Caps will again welcome an elite Western Conference opponent to D.C., when the Colorado Avalanche visit on Jan.12.

While it's only the natural to have a bit of letdown following the NHL's marquee event on Jan.1[the Capitals lost 4-of-5 and 7-of-11 following their 2011 Winter Classic win in Pittsburgh], the Capitals won't have much time to relax during a busy stretch in January.

The Caps' Jan.12 meeting with Colorado with be their fourth game in six days, and part of a stretch that will see them play 7 games in 11 days, the most scheduling compression allowable under the CBA.

Varly returns: The Avs swept the two-game season-series against the Capitals last season, with former Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov compiling a 2-0-0 record with a 1.00 goals-against-average and .973 save percentage.

Varlamov was especially sharp in his return to Verizon Center last October, when he was named the game's first star after turning aside 40-of-41 shots in a 5-1 Colorado win.

The 26-year-old finished the year with a career-high and NHL-best 41 wins, while finishing second with a .927 save percentage [among goalies with at least 30 appearances]. He was rewarded with a five-year $29.5M extension.

Talent up front: The Avalanche also return their four leading scorers from last season, with Matt Duchene [23 goals and 70 points], Gabriel Landeskog [26 goals and 65 points], Ryan O'Reilly [28 goals and 64 points] and Rookie of the Year Nathan MacKinnon [24 goals and 63 points]. Perhaps most impressive is that none of the four offensive leaders is older than 23.

Veterans Jarome Iginla, 37, and Daniel Briere, 36, were among Colorado's key offseason acquisitions.

What to expect: Many are predicting that the Avalanche will come back to earth this season after a surprising run last year ended with a Central Division title.

Colorado had the NHL's best record in one-goal games at 28-4-8 (.700) and allowed 32.7 shots-per-game, second most in the Western Conference.

While Patrick Roy's club may be hard pressed to repeat the success of last year's 52-win campaign, the Avs should still rank among the best teams in the West, and should provide the Caps with a solid test in mid-January.

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