Pregame primer: Capitals battling for a playoff berth

Pregame primer: Capitals battling for a playoff berth
January 31, 2014, 5:00 pm
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(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

News and notes as the Capitals [24-22-8, 56 points] prepare to visit the Detroit Red Wings [23-19-11, 57 points] at Joe Louis Arena [7:30 p.m., CSN]:

Where they stand: If the season ended today the Red Wings and Caps would be out of the playoffs, shocking when you consider the Red Wings have been to the post-season 22 straight seasons and the Caps the past six. The Red Wings are one point behind the Blue Jackets and Senators, while the Caps are two out.

Trending: The Caps had a modest two-game win streak snapped on Thursday night in Columbus in what coach Adam Oates called a “terrible” 5-2 loss. The Red Wings are coming off a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Flyers on Tuesday night. Both teams will be happy to say goodbye to January. The Caps are 4-7-3, the Wings 5-5-2.

Midnight train going anywhere: There are a few ties between the Caps and Red Wings. Oates began his NHL career in Detroit, playing parts of four seasons with the Red Wings and compiling 199 points in 246 games. He said getting traded from Detroit “broke my heart.” Capitals defenseman Mike Green was drafted by the Capitals with the first-round pick [29th overall] that Detroit traded to the Caps along with Tomas Fleischman for forward Robert Lang on Feb. 27, 2004. Caps defenseman John Carlson won a gold medal with Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff in the 2010 World Junior Championships.

No Datsyuk: The Red Wings have been without center Pavel Datsyuk for 18 games this season. They went 5-2-0 without him when he was sidelined with a concussion from Nov. 24 through Dec. 7, and are 5-5-1 without him since he was shelved with a lower body injury on Jan. 4.

Power struggle: Both teams are struggling on the power play this month. The Caps have three power-play goals in their last 11 games. The Red Wings have four in their last 12.

Goalie battle: The Caps will go with Michal Neuvirth [3-5-1, 2.79, .915], while the Wings turn to Jimmy Howard [9-12-8, 2.64, .916]. Neuvirth lost his only other career start against Detroit, a 3-2 loss. Howard is 1-1-1 with a 2.93 GAA and .890 save percentage against the Caps.

Green update: Caps defenseman Mike Green [upper body] is expected to miss his fourth game of the season tonight. If he cannot play Tyson Strachan will take his place on a second defense pairing with Dmitry Orlov.

[RELATED: Six questions for the Capitals, brought to you by Penn Quarter Sports Tavern]

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS

Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin
Marty Erat-Brooks Laich-Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson

Eric Fehr-Casey Wellman-Joel Ward

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Tyson Strachan

John Erskine-Connor Carrick

Goaltenders

Michal Neuvirth [starter] – Braden Holtby

RED WINGS

Forward Lines

Gustav Nyquist-Henrik Zetterberg-Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Tomas Jurco
Joakim Andersson-Darren Helm-Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller-Luke Glendening-Patrick Eaves

Defense Pairings

Jonathan Ericsson-Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey-Danny DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl-Brendan Smith

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard [starter] - Jonas Gustavsson

More Team Talk