Pre-game primer: Taming Avs' speed

Pre-game primer: Taming Avs' speed
October 12, 2013, 3:00 pm
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(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

News and notes as the Capitals [1-3-0] await tonight’s visit from the Colorado Avalanche [4-0-0] at the Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN]:

Speed kills: The Avs are considered one of the fastest teams in the NHL and defenseman Karl Alzner went so far as to call it “organized shinny.” Caps coach Adam Oates said there is a lot of risk in the way the Avs play.

“Everything’s going their way right now,” Oates said. “When they’re making mistakes they’re not going in their net. They’re a great skating team. We’ve got to slow them down and stay out of the box.

“They want to skate and sometimes they’ll skate at the risk of gambling, and we have to be prepared for that.”

Hall of Fame coaches: Tonight marks the first coaching matchup between Oates and Patrick Roy. They are the only two NHL coaches who are also Hall of Fame players. Roy was so fired up at the conclusion of his first NHL victory that he was fined $10,000 for his antics.

Oates is just as passionate, but far more reserved on the bench.

“Just because you don’t yell doesn’t mean you’re not fiery,” Oates said.

Super start: Having finished 29th in the NHL last season the Avs are off their best start since moving from Quebec to Denver 20 years ago.  “Honestly, we don't really have expectations,” Roy said. “We just want to surprise the world of hockey.”

Varly vs. Neuvy: Semyon Varlamov, taken by the Caps with the 23rd pick of the 2006 NHL draft, has allowed one goal in each of his first three starts, stopping 88 of 91 shots. Michal Neuvirth, who was taken by the Caps 11 picks after Varlamov, is 1-0 and has stopped 27 of 28 shots.

Downie vs. Alzner: Caps defenseman Karl Alzner will get another up-close look at Avalanche agitator Steve Downie. Back on Jan. 13, 2012, Alzner got into his first and only NHL fight against Downie, who was with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the time. Downie has had three fights and four points in his first four games.

Chasing 100: Marcus Johansson is one point shy of 100 in the NHL, John Carlson is two points shy of 100, Jason Chimera is three points shy of 100 and Mikhail Grabovski is three goals shy of 100.

Other milestones: Brooks Laich needs two points to pass Craig Laughlin [283] for 22nd place on the Caps’ all-time scoring list. Paul Stastny needs one point to reach 400.

Youngest captain: Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history last season at 19 years, 286 days. That made him 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby when the Penguins gave him the ‘C.’ Now 20, he remains the youngest captain in the league.

Ovi watch: Alex Ovechkin [five goals] has scored goals in his first four games for the first time in his career. Other Caps who have done it are Mike Gartner [1987] and Dennis Maruk [1979]. No Capitals player has ever scored goals in his first five games of the season. Last season Ovechkin didn’t get to five goals until the 13th game of the season.

Perfect killers: The Avalanche are a perfect 10-for-10 on penalty kills this season. The Canucks are the only other NHL team that has not allowed a power play goal. The Caps dipped to third in the NHL on the power play with their 0-for-5 performance Thursday night against Carolina.

CAPITALS

Forward Lines

Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin

Brooks Laich – Mikhail Grabovski – Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward

Martin Erat – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner – Mike Green

Alexander Urbom – John Carlson

Nate Schmidt – Steve Oleksy

Goaltenders

Michal Neuvirth - Braden Holtby

Scratches: Aaron Volpatti

Injured: John Erskine [upper-body], Jack Hillen [fractured tibial plateau]

AVALANCHE

Forward Lines

Gabriel Landeskog – Paul Stastny – Alex Tanguay

Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Steve Downie

Jamie McGinn – Nathan MacKinnon – PA Parenteau

Cody McLeod – John Mitchell – Patrick Bordeleau

Defense Pairings

Erik Johnson – Jan Hejda

Tyson Barrie – Nate Guenin

Cory Sarich – Andre Benoit

Goaltenders 

Semyon Varlamov - Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratches: Nick HoldenMarc-Andre Cliche

Injured: Ryan Wilson [knee]