Neuvirth sets sights on fifth straight start

Neuvirth sets sights on fifth straight start
January 31, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Barring any changes from the morning skate in Toronto, it appears goaltender Michal Neuvirth will get his fifth consecutive start tonight against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre [7 p.m.,  CSN, 106.7 FM, 1500 AM].

Center Marcus Johansson is also expected to return to the lineup after sitting out the previous two games. He’s expected to replace Mathieu Perreault who complained last week about his reduced playing time.

Defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti are expected to join Perreault on the scratch sheet.

Against the Maple Leafs Neuvirth has a career mark of 4-1-1 with a 3.08 goals-against average. He’s gone 4-0-1 in his last six games against  Toronto and has not lost to the Leafs

since Dec. 12, 2009.

Johansson is a team-worst minus-5 in four games this season. On Thursday he practiced on a fourth line with wingers Matt Hendricks and Eric Fehr.

Adam Oates stuck with the forward lines he used in Ottawa during the Caps' 3-2 loss to the Senators. That means Alex Ovechkin is likely to start tonight's game on a line with center Jay Beagle and right wing Joey Crabb.

Ovechkin has just one goal and one assist in six games this season. In 27 career games against the Maple Leafs he has 23 goals and 18 assists for 42 points. He’s recorded 14 multiple point games against the Leafs and has been held off the scoresheet just five times in 27 games.

Backstrom watch: Nicklas Backsrom has three assists in six games this season  The fourth pick taken in the 2006 NHL draft, he leads his draft class in points (370). Toronto’s Phil Kessel (fifth overall) ranks third with 330. Backstrom has 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 18 career games against Toronto.

Special teams battle: The Caps rank 25th on the penalty kill, having allowed nine goals on 30 power plays against [70 percent]. The Leafs rank 14th in the NHL at 80 percent, killing 16 of 20 penalties. On the power play, the Caps are 4-for-25 [16 percent], while the Leafs are 5 for 30 [16.1 percent].

Injury update: Brooks Laich [apparent groin injury] skated with the Caps for the first time since the start of training camp but is not expected to play.  The Maple Leafs are without forward Joffrey Lupul [broken forearm]. Forward Clarke MacArthur [lacerated finger] and defenseman Mike Komisarek [eye] are day-to-day.

Former Cap: Leafs forward David Steckel played 291 games with the Caps over six seasons (2005-06 to 2010-11), registering 58 points (23 goals, 35 assists)

with 113 penalty minutes.

Familiar foe: Former Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk scored his third goal of the season in his fifth game on Saturday. In his previous three seasons in the NHL, van Riemsdyk didn't reach three goals until his 11th, 20th and 10th games of each season.

 Perfect Erskine: The Caps are 9-0 whenever John Erskine scores a goal.

 Check their IDs: The Leafs have the second-youngest roster in the NHL with an average of 27.1 years. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets [26.9] are yunger.

 Look ahead: The Caps return home to face the Flyers on Friday night. The Flyers are 2-5-0 and have lost back-to-back games to the Lightning and Rangers.