Jets-Capitals Preview

The Associated Press

Just when it looked like the Washington Capitals were starting to put their best foot forward, they took a big step back their last time out.

They've proven plenty consistent against the Winnipeg Jets of late.

Looking to get back on track, Washington goes for a sixth consecutive win over the visiting Jets as these former Southeast Division foes meet Thursday night.

The Capitals (25-23-9) followed a seven-game losing streak with a 3-1-1 stretch, but their struggles resumed Tuesday with a 1-0 home loss to an Islanders team which had dropped five straight. Michal Neuvirth took what would have been his first shutout into the third period before allowing a goal just over two minutes in.

"It's more frustrating than you know," defenseman Karl Alzner told the team's official website. "It's nice to string a few together and have everybody feeling good. That's when guys start scoring lots of goals and guys get going on point streaks and all that kind of stuff; goalies get confidence.

"If we want to put ourselves in a position to play some postseason hockey, we've got to string a few together. You can't just win one and lose one the rest of the way."

The Capitals are one of three Eastern Conference teams tied with 59 points, three out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Picking up the pace at home could help them get in.

Washington, 1-2-2 over its last five on home ice, has scored no more than one goal in each of those defeats. The Capitals have gone 0-10-4 overall since the start of December when scoring two or fewer.

"I think what it proves is you can't worry about goals," coach Adam Oates said. "You've got to worry about your own end. ... You've got to be a defensive team. It's amazing how when you play good defense, you get chances."

Washington has controlled both ends of the ice during its five-game winning streak against the Jets, outscoring them 22-8 while killing off 16 of 17 penalties.

Alex Ovechkin had two goals and an assist in a 5-4 shootout win at Winnipeg on Oct. 22 in the only meeting this season. He has eight goals with six assists during a seven-game point streak in this series, giving him 40 goals and 81 points in 54 career meetings with the Jets franchise - his highest totals against any team.

However, Ovechkin could be hard-pressed to fill the stat sheet against a Winnipeg team that's clamped down under interim coach Paul Maurice. The Jets (28-25-5) have surrendered an average of 2.0 goals in going 9-2-0 since he took over for Claude Noel on Jan. 12.

Winnipeg is on the verge of a season high-tying fourth consecutive win after beating Carolina 2-1 on Tuesday. Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves and Chris Thorburn scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:03 to play.

"Everyone understands their role and we're playing as a team," Thorburn told the NHL's official website. "With winning comes confidence, and confidence is a dangerous thing. We're riding with it."

Pavelec is 3-1-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average in his last four road starts, and his team is looking to post four consecutive road wins for the first time since doing so as the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009-10. Pavelec, though, has a 4.00 GAA in losing Winnipeg's last five meetings with Washington.

Neuvirth is 1-3-1 with a 2.96 GAA in his last five games.

The Capitals are 20-10-6 this season when Ovechkin records at least one point compared to 3-11-3 when he doesn't.