NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, April 25th
(All times Eastern)
Ottawa Senators (23-16-6) at Washington Capitals (26-18-2), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators hope the return of one of the league's
most dynamic defensive talents can help them avoid a third straight loss when
they visit the newly-crowned Washington Capitals for Thursday's game at
The Capitals won their fifth Southeast Division title in six years after
beating the Winnipeg Jets by a 5-3 score on Tuesday. Washington is now locked
into the third seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
While the Caps' postseason standing is set in stone, the Senators are still
battling for a spot in the playoffs and the return of defenseman Erik
Karlsson could tip the balance in Ottawa's favor over its last three games.
Karlsson, last season's Norris Trophy winner, was cleared for contact last
Friday and the Sens will have the Swedish defenseman back on Thursday.
"If he says he's ready to play, then he's ready to play," head coach Paul
MacLean said. "He's done the work."
Karlsson had six goals and four assists in 14 games this season before
sustaining a severe cut to his left Achilles when he got clipped by the skate
of Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on Feb. 13. He was originally expected to miss 4-
to-6 months of action due to the cut, but he shocked everyone by resuming
skating three weeks ago. Karlsson has missed 31 games due to the injury.
Ottawa hopes Karlsson can help its playoff push, as the Sens are one of three
teams fighting for the last two playoff spots in the East. The Senators are
tied at 52 points with the New York Rangers and one point ahead of ninth-
seeded Winnipeg. The Jets play their final game of the regular season tonight
against visiting Montreal, while the Rangers visit Carolina for the second-to-
last game on their schedule.
MacLean's club will qualify for the playoffs for a second straight spring if
they can win any of their last three games, or if Winnipeg loses in regulation
to the Canadiens on Thursday.
The Senators certainly could use Karlsson's help after losing their past two
games in regulation by a combined 7-2 score. After dropping a 4-1 decision to
visiting Toronto on Saturday, the Sens were handed a 3-1 home loss by
Pittsburgh on Monday.
Ottawa fired 35 shots at Tomas Vokoun on Monday, but the Pittsburgh netminder
stopped all but one in the Penguins' road triumph. Patrick Wiercioch scored
Ottawa's goal while Craig Anderson stopped 21-of-24 shots for the Senators,
who have dropped two straight on the heels of a promising four-game winning
"They capitalized on a couple of opportunities, and that was the difference,"
said Senators defenseman Marc Methot.
Ottawa is playing two if its final three games on the road, where it is 8-11-3
this year. The Sens will host Philadelphia on Saturday before closing the
regular season Sunday in Boston.
The Capitals clinched another division title with Tuesday's win over Winnipeg.
Alex Ovechkin posted a goal and an assist and the Russian superstar has a
league-leading 31 goals this season, two more than Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos.
"We did it and everyone is pretty happy right now," said Ovechkin. "It's a
first step, but we still have a lot of work to do here. We're clicking pretty
good right now, so we'll see where this goes."
Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera and Mathieu Perreault each gave a goal and an
assist and Matt Hendricks also scored for the Capitals, who have surged in
April with a mark of 10-1-0. Braden Holtby stopped 24 shots in the win.
Washington has two games left on a three-game homestand to close the regular
season. The Caps are 14-8-0 as the host this season and they have won four
straight and 11 of their last 12 home games against Ottawa.
The Sens have won three straight overall against Washington.
04/25 12:52:37 ET