With only 48 games scheduled in this lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season, the Capitals’ game tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs marks their only visit of the year to the Air Canada Centre.
While a 7-1 Maple Leafs’ win in Bruce Boudreau’s penultimate road game with the Caps in November 2011 is an exception, the Caps have enjoyed much success in Toronto in recent years.
Alex Ovechkin recorded both his last NHL hat-trick (Jan.22, 2011) and his 300th career NHL goal (Apr.5, 2011) in winning efforts in Toronto. The latter game also saw the Capitals earn a 3-2 shootout win to clinch their fourth straight Southeast Division title.
Since 2006, the Capitals have earned at least one point in seven of their last ten visits to Toronto (5-3-2 over that span).
“When you get to Toronto, you know you’re in Toronto” Brooks Laich said last season before the Caps faced the Maple Leafs north of the border. “The media is on you, people are around you and there’s just an excitement and a buzz in town leading up to the game.”
While Laich remains sidelined with a lower body injury, tonight’s game marks a reunion of sorts for former Maple Leafs forward Joey Crabb, as well as a homecoming for Toronto-natives Joel Ward and Wojtek Wolski.
“It’s great and I’m happy to be able to go home and play in front of my family and friends,” said Wolski who is second on the team with 19 shots on goal through six games (Ovechkin leads with 20 shots). “It’s always nice and I’m going to do everything I can to get the win.”
Wolski was born in Poland but moved to Toronto when he was four. Unlike many Torontonians though, Wolski did not grow up a Maple Leafs fan.
“I actually grew up a Colorado Avalanche fan, and maybe a secondary Leafs fan. It was tough to be a fan of the Leafs [in the mid-late 1990s], so I was always a Colorado fan.”
By coincidence, the Avalanche selected Wolski in the first round (21st overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft, but his following the team dates back to his childhood in Toronto.
“The first game I ever saw at Maple Leafs Gardens was a Toronto-Colorado game so I started liking them and [Joe] Sakic and [Forsberg] were two of my favorite players growing up. So I liked watching them a lot- they had such a great rivalry with Detroit in the playoffs those years- and they were just a fun team to watch.”