Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Caps Open Road Trip in Atlanta

Washington skates in Atlanta tonight and looking to use the final three games on the road to hold onto the second seed in the East, and propel Alexander Ovechkin to his second straight Art Ross trophy in the process.

Simeon Varlamov is expected to start against the Thrashers after a somewhat shaky performance against Buffalo Friday night, and the Capitals certainly will look to turn in a better overall showing against a team that gave them trouble for 40 minutes Sunday. For good stretches, Atlanta outworked Washington, and was able to capitalize on their chances before the Caps finally took control in the third period.

It has been a trend against teams behind them in the standings that Washington seemingly is somewhat content to hang back and turn it on late to try to make up for the lesser effort, and with three teams right now out of a playoff seed, the Caps don't want that to continue while they look to stay healthy and keep their current positioning.

The Caps can also move closer to clinching the second seed, as while they skate in Georgia, the Devils will be hosting the Maple Leafs. New Jersey plays its final three games the same days as Washington, although Saturday's Devils game will an afternoon affair, meaning the Caps will know if the game will be important in the race by the time they hit the ice in Florida that night.

As for Ovechkin, he starts the day two points behind Evgeni Malkin with the Pens having three games left to play as well. Ovechkin notched a pair of assists against the Thrashers Sunday, while Malkin plays the Lightning in Tampa tonight.

Speaking of the Pens, they nearly fell into the seventh seed last night before the Canadiens lost a 2-1 lead to Ottawa late, meaning for the time being, the Caps are in line to still play Montreal in the first round. Had the Habs held on, they would have leapfrogged the Penguins into sixth place in the East, dumping Pittsburgh down into the seventh spot.

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