With the Washington Capitals banged-up, coach Bruce Boudreau is urging Alex Ovechkin to carry the team.
The reigning Hart Trophy winner hasn’t needed any prodding in games at Toronto.
Losers of four straight road games, the Capitals hope for another strong effort from Ovechkin at the Air Canada Centre when they face the struggling Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Washington (14-9-3) was without several injured players against the New York Islanders on Thursday night, but Ovechkin had a goal and two assists as the Capitals won 5-2.
Alexander Semin (back), Sergei Fedorov (ankle), Mike Green (shoulder) and Tom Poti (groin) all missed the game and are listed as day-to-day. Semin, who hasn’t played since Nov. 14, is second on the team with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists).
Ovechkin provided enough offense and leadership to carry Washington versus the Islanders. The star winger tops the Capitals with 14 goals and 20 assists.
“He is the leader of the team, and so when the leader sees everything else around him not functioning the way he’d like, he has to be the one who stands up and says ‘Get on my back and follow me,’” Boudreau said.
Ovechkin has six goals in his last six games, and will now face a Maple Leafs team that he has been outstanding against on the road. He has seven goals and one assist in six games at Toronto.
Washington, though, went 3-3-0 in those contests, and split four meetings with Toronto (9-11-6) last season. The Capitals went 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) on the power play against the Maple Leafs in 2007-08.
Washington is 5-for-9 with the man advantage in its last two games overall. The Capitals scored three power-play goals Thursday, matching their high for the season, and are 16-for-49 (32.7) in their last 12 games.
In its last road game, though, Washington went 0-for-5 with the man advantage and lost 3-0 to Columbus Nov. 29. It was the Capitals’ fourth straight defeat on the road, where they are 4-8-2.
“It can’t be a sometimes thing, it has to be an everyday thing,” Boudreau said. “And when it becomes an everyday thing, then it becomes winning four and five and six games in a row. And that’s what we sure would like to become.”
Toronto has allowed five goals or more nine times this season, including each of its last two contests. The Maple Leafs are coming off a 6-3 loss to Phoenix on Thursday night, two days after falling 5-2 to San Jose.
Even shot opportunities are becoming scarce for Toronto, which entered its game against the Coyotes third in the NHL with 33.4 shots per game. The Maple Leafs managed just nine shots in the first two periods of that contest, and finished with a season-low 18.
Jason Blake had a goal and two assists for the Maple Leafs. The veteran winger, who has struggled for the most part since joining Toronto prior to the 2007-08 season, hasn’t registered a point in his last three games against the Capitals.
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