Pre-game primer: Neuvirth to face Canadiens

Pre-game primer: Neuvirth to face Canadiens
April 9, 2013, 3:15 pm

News and notes as the Capitals [20-17-2] visit the Canadiens [25-8-5] tonight in Montreal’s Bell Centre:

Neuvy back in: Capitals coach Adam Oates told the Washington Post that Michal Neuvirth [3-5-1, 2.89, .902] will make his second straight start tonight. Neuvirth stopped 28 of 30 shots in the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday night. He has not had back-to-back starts since March 14 and 16. The Canadiens are expected to start Carey Price [19-7-4, 2.26, .916].

Erat, Ward, Laich out: Martin Erat, Joel Ward and Brooks Laich will sit out tonight’s game with injuries. Erat appeared to injure his right knee in Saturday night’s win in Florida. He skated on Tuesday for the first time since the injury and is making progress. Ward blocked a shot by Sami Salo with his left leg midway through the third period of the Caps’ win over Tampa on Sunday. He also made the trip to Montreal, but will not play. Laich remained in Washington and was expected to meet with the same surgeon who last year performed sports hernia surgeries on Mike Green and Ward. With all three forwards sidelined, Wojtek Wolski is expected to return to the lineup for the first time in six games and play on a second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer. Aaron Volpatti will stay on a fourth line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.

Who’s out for the Habs: Defenseman Alexei Emelin is out for the season with a torn knee ligament and will be replaced by Davis Drewiske on a top pairing with Andrei Markov. Drewiske was acquired from the Kings at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, AHL callup Nathan Beaulieau will play on a third pairing with Francis Bouillon.  Meanwhile, forward Rene Bourque is expected to return after missing 15 games with a concussion.

What it means: The Caps, 8-1-1 in their last 10, can solidify their hold on the Southeast Division lead with a win tonight. They remain two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who are home tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps hold a game in hand on the Jets, who have lost seven of their last 10 games. The Canadiens have won five of six, including a pair of one-goal wins over the Bruins, who trail them by one point in the Northeast standings and are idle tonight.

South-least: The Caps are 12-3-0 against the Southeast Division this season and a combined 8-14-2 against the Atlantic [4-9-2] and Northeast [4-5-0]. The Caps play six of their final nine games against the Northeast.

Last time they met: The Canadiens rolled over the Caps 4-1 in their last meeting back on Jan. 24, the Caps’ third game of the season. Joey Crabb, now in Hershey, was the lone goal scorer for Washington. Alex Ovechkin is on fire with 16 goals in his last 14 games but he has just one goal in his last four games against the Habs.

Who’s hot for the Caps: Ovechkin is the hottest player in the league with 23 points in his last 14 games. His center, Nicklas Backstrom has nine assists in his past four games. Green has six goals and two assists since returning from a groin injury.

Who’s hot for the Canadiens: Defenseman P.K. Subban has one goal and nine assists in his last six games. Rookie forward Alex Galchenyuk has two goals in his last two games.