Pregame primer: Taming the streaking Ducks

Pregame primer: Taming the streaking Ducks
December 23, 2013, 5:45 pm
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Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) moves the puck against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at Verizon Center.

(Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

News and notes as the Capitals [19-13-4, 42 points] take on the visiting Anaheim Ducks [26-7-5, 57 points] tonight at VerizonCenter [7 p.m., CSN]:

California streakers: The Ducks come into the game with an eight-game win streak and have outscored their opponents 31-16 in that span, allowing two or fewer goals in seven of those games. They have not lost a game in regulation since Nov. 26 [9-0-2]. “They’re a hot team and it’s going to be a good challenge for us,” Caps center Nicklas Backstrom said. “We better be ready.”

Long road home: Tonight marks the end of a four-game road trip for the Ducks. They’ve played the most road games in the NHL [23]. This is their last Eastern Time zone game of the season.  

Praising Gabby: Legend has it Bruce Boudreau didn’t know a whole lot about Nicklas Backstrom when he was hired as the Capitals’ coach in 2007 and penciled him onto the fourth line in his first game behind the bench. It wasn’t long before Boudreau elevated the 19-year-old rookie to a top line with Alex Ovechkin.  “He believed in me,” Backstrom said. “It was pretty much him that took me where I am today.”

More on Boudreau: Several Capitals credited Boudreau for turning the D.C. region into a legitimate hockey market. “I would say with his passion he brought back hockey to the city,” Backstrom said. “That’s the time we started to play good and people started watching.” Jason Chimera agreed. “He took a struggling team to pretty much one of the top contenders every year. I think George [McPhee] has done a good job of that, but Bruce set the foundation for what we have here now.”

Welcome back, Matty: Center Mathieu Perreault also will be making a homecoming tonight. He was traded from the Caps to the Ducks on Sept. 29 in exchange for AHL prospect John Mitchell and a fourth-round pick in 2014. Perreault saw the writing on the wall in training camp when Caps coach Adam Oates experimented with Eric Fehr and Marty Erat at center. “I had to wait for someone to get hurt to have a chance [in Washington],” Perreault said “I would actually do good and then when the guys would be back I would be on the sideline again. The Caps knew that if they didn’t have the chance to play me it was about time to let me go. I’m 25. I want to play. I think it was actually nice of the Caps to let me go and give me a chance to play.” In 32 games with the Ducks Perreault has seven goals, 12 assists, is a plus-12 and is averagine 14:10 in ice time.

Leaderboard: Tonight’s game features four of the NHL’s top seven scorers. Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf ranks third in the NHL with 43 points [19 goals, 24 assists], Alex Ovechkin [30-11-41] and Backstrom [8-33-41] are tied for fourth and Ducks right wing Corey Perry [22-18-40] is seventh.

Here are projected lineups for the two teams:

CAPITALS

Forward Lines

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Martin Erat - Joel Ward

Brooks Laich - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Mike Green

John Erskine - Steve Oleksy

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer [starter] - Braden Holtby

DUCKS

Forward Lines

Kyle Palmieri - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Patrick Maroon - Mathieu Perreault - Jakob Silfverberg

Daniel Winnik - Saku Koivu - Andrew Cogliano

Dustin Penner - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne

Defense Pairings

Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy

Bryan Allen - Francois Beauchemin

Mark Fistric - Hampus Lindholm

Goaltenders

Jonas Hiller [starter] Frederik Andersen