The Washington Capitals have enjoyed nothing but success against their Southeast Division foes this season. They haven’t been nearly as dominant against the rest of the NHL.
Washington looks to avoid its first three-game road skid since last season when it faces the surging Colorado Avalanche, who have taken over the Northwest Division lead, Tuesday night.
The Capitals (20-7-6) are 8-0-0 versus Southeast opponents, a mark that has allowed them to overcome a 12-7-6 record against other teams and take the largest division lead in the league by far.
The Capitals continued to have some problems against teams outside the Southeast on Saturday, falling 6-3 at Toronto. Washington took a two-goal lead 5:15 into the game on goals from Alex Ovechkin(notes) and Nicklas Backstrom(notes), but suffered the loss in their third game in four nights.
The Capitals, playing six games over 10 nights in five cities, went through their first structured practice in more than a week Monday.
“When you don’t practice, bad habits do creep in … and it happens all the time,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Today they were happy to practice.”
Washington, which last dropped three straight away from home during a four-game road slide last Nov. 20-29, makes its first visit to Denver since a 5-3 victory Oct. 25, 2006.
The Avalanche (19-10-6), winners of two straight and four of five, took over sole possession of the Northwest lead with a 3-2 victory over Calgary on Sunday.
“Everyone picked us to finish last (in the division). That just motivated us,” said left wing Wojtek Wolski(notes), who had a goal and an assist. “We kind of almost snuck up on a lot of teams. … We’re definitely a hard team to play against now.”
The Avalanche know they face a challenge in staying hot against Ovechkin and the Capitals.
“(Ovechkin is) one of the best players in the world right now,” Colorado forward Chris Stewart(notes) told the team’s official Web site. “You like to watch him on a nightly basis and learn from the little things that he does. With a guy like that you just have to take away every shot he has.”
Washington leads the NHL with 118 goals but will face a Colorado team that has scored 103. The Avs are led by their top line of Wolski, Stewart and Paul Stastny(notes), who combined for 11 goals and 20 assists as the club went 5-2-1 in its last eight.
If Semyon Varlamov(notes) is again unable to return from a groin injury, Jose Theodore(notes) will likely get the start in goal for Washington. Theodore, who went 42-39-5 with a 2.76 goals-against average for the Avalanche from 2006-08, has gone 1-5-1 with a 3.23 GAA in seven career starts versus Colorado.
Colorado won 4-1 at Washington on Feb. 20 in the teams’ last meeting.