Washington (2-1-1) at Detroit (1-2-0)

Cloudy Currently: Detroit, MI
Temp: 55° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EDT Sat Oct 10, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The season is less than two weeks old and the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals already face challenges heading into their matchup Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.

After opening the new campaign with two straight losses in Sweden, the Red Wings (1-2-0) avoided their worst start in 20 years by beating Chicago 3-2 on Thursday in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals.

Detroit fended off a two-man advantage for nearly two minutes in the second period before scoring three straight goals. In their two losses to St. Louis, the Red Wings allowed four power-play goals in nine chances.

“The 5-on-3 turned the game for us,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “It was a big win for our team to take some pressure off.”

Johan Franzen(notes) scored the game-winner in the second period, but the club revealed Friday that he will miss at least four months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Last season, the forward set career-highs with 34 goals and 59 points before leading the Red Wings with 12 playoff goals as they lost in the Stanley Cup finals to Pittsburgh.

With Franzen out, Detroit now won’t have five players who scored 122 of its NHL-leading 295 goals last season. Forwards Marian Hossa(notes) and Tomas Kopecky(notes) signed with the rival Blackhawks in the offseason, Mikael Samuelsson(notes) headed to Vancouver and Jiri Hudler(notes) left for Russia.

Despite again boasting one of the league’s most dynamic offenses, the Capitals’ defensive struggles in consecutive defeats have their coach aggravated.

Washington’s offense was exceptional as the club averaged 4.5 goals during a 2-1-1 start. Nicklas Backstrom(notes) leads the NHL with 10 points, including a league high-tying eight assists. Two-time defending Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin(notes) and Alexander Semin(notes) each have five goals and four assists.

Like last season, though, Washington has been hampered by a porous defense, which has given up 14 goals in the past three games. The Capitals were third in the NHL in averaging 3.27 goals last season but tied for 19th in allowing 2.93 per game.

They twice rallied to take one-goal leads Tuesday in Philadelphia before falling 6-5 in overtime. They also came back Thursday against the visiting Rangers to pull ahead by one in the third period before New York’s Marian Gaborik(notes) scored twice on Jose Theodore(notes) in the 4-3 defeat.

After Friday’s practice, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau questioned his players’ work ethic, namely Ovechkin and Semin, on defense.

“Because they’ve had big numbers to start the season, everybody’s saying we have great talent,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got guys that are at the top end, and we have other guys that are hard workers.

“You need everybody to play as a team. Individuals do not win (Stanley) Cups. … We all have to play the same way without the puck.”

The Capitals snapped an 0-2-1 slide against the Red Wings with a 4-2 victory on Jan. 31 as Ovechkin scored twice in the third period, giving him four in three career games against Detroit.

Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes), who scored his first goal Thursday, needs two points to become the eighth NHL defenseman to reach 1,000. He has two goals and 16 assists in 26 career games versus Washington.

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Saturday, Oct 10