Two teams that have fallen back a bit after a strong start meet Friday night when the two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals visit the Detroit Red Wings. The Capitals have lost of four of their last five games (1-3-1) since opening with two impressive victories that included seven goals from Alex Ovechkin, and Detroit dropped its last two contests after going 4-1-0 out of the gate.
Washington scored 10 goals in the first two games and managed 12 in five outings since with a 2-0 loss to Toronto at home Tuesday following an embarrassing 8-2 setback at Philadelphia. “It’s pretty hard to play without the puck right now,” Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has an NHL-high 11 assists through Wednesday, told reporters. “We have to work harder away from the puck.” The Red Wings outshot the last two opponents, but went 0-for-9 combined on the power play and allowed nine goals, including six against Toronto on Wednesday as goaltender Jimmy Howard was pulled after allowing three goals on the first four Maple Leafs shots. “We did tons of good stuff and had lots of good moments, especially in the first (period) where we carried the play, but it just seemed like everything they threw at the net went in,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill told reporters. “I can’t say that’s all goaltending, just sometimes that’s how it goes.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN Washington Plus, FSN Detroit
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (3-3-1): Nicklas Backstrom (three goals) and Kuznetsov lead the team with 11 points and Ovechkin has 10 (nine goals), but has been kept off the scoresheet in two straight games. Andre Burakovsky, who has no goals and two assists on nine shots in seven games, was moved from the line with Backstrom and T.J. Oshie (five goals) and replaced by Thomas Wilson reportedly at practice Thursday. Center Lars Eller should be back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game because of illness while forward Tyler Graovac suffered an upper-body injury and is considered week-to-week.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (4-3-0): Detroit was 27th in the league on the power play last season (15.1 percent) and is off to a slow start with the man advantage again, converting 4 of 27 opportunities. Tomas Tatar notched his first goal of the season and 100th of his career Wednesday while captain Henrik Zetterberg recorded his team-leading fourth tally to tie Dylan Larkin with eight points - behind only defenseman Mike Green (nine). Howard allowed only five goals in three games to start the season, but has surrendered six tallies on 30 shots over his last two appearances.
1. Detroit D Niklas Kronwall, who has a plus-2 rating in four contests, is expected to play his 800th NHL game Friday.
2. Washington C Jay Beagle, who is scheduled to play his 400th NHL game, is 51-38 in the faceoff circle.
3. The Capitals have points in the last five meetings (4-0-1) with the Red Wings and are 6-1-1 in the last eight.
PREDICTION: Capitals 5, Red Wings 2