Monday, October 26, 2009

Flyers Make First Visit to Verizon Center

The last time the Capitals had a winning streak this season, it was the Flyers that broke it. Now, armed with four wins in a row and four points in a two-game road trip, Washington returns back to Verizon Center to play host to Philadelphia Tuesday looking to improve upon some sloppy play despite its early success on the season.

With a 5-2-2 mark as the season hits the 10-game mark, the Caps are off to their best start in a dozen years, but the team still has struggled in some areas. Most evident is the sputtering of their power-play unit, which has gone 0-for-11 and allowed two shorthanded tallies in their last two games. Now, Washington returns home looking to avenge a wild 6-5 overtime loss in Philadelphia earlier this month.

In that game, Mike Richards netted a hat trick as Semyon Varlamov was pulled in the second period, but the Caps took a 5-4 lead before a late goal by Scott Hartnell forced overtime, where Daniel Briere notched the game-winner. Washington did get a pair of goals by both Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, and certainly played well enough to win but were undone by sloppy play and bad penalties.

The Flyers - who are 5-3-1 so far this year but in fourth place in the Atlantic - are playing just their fourth game on the road Tuesday, are coming off a 4-1 loss to San Jose that ended a 2-1-0 homestand for Philadelphia.

The Flyers' special teams have been good so far this campaign, with the power-play and penalty-killing units in the top eight in the league and helped the team off to its good start.

While the Capitals are slightly better at scoring goals this season (3.60 goals-per-game pace to the Flyers' 3.33 per game), the goals-against are virtually identical (2.90 for Washington to 2.89 for Philadelphia), meaning the special teams likely will be key Tuesday night.

For Philadelphia, 11 of their 30 goals are with the extra-man, while only eight of Washington's 37 goals have come with the power play, and the discrepancy was evident in the teams' first meeting three weeks ago, when the Flyers scored three of their six goals with the extra attacker.

The Capitals will need to have discipline and avoid taking bad penalties, and also not let the Flyers cash in, something Washington hasn't shown a tendency to do on a regular basis. It certainly figures to be another entertaining contest between the two rivals.

Unfortunately for fans with DirecTV, it also marks the third game this month fans will miss thanks to the dispute between the satellite provider and the cable network. Fortunately, it's also Washington's last appearance on Versus until March 8th, when hopefully the two sides will have resolved their dispute.

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