NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, April 8th (All times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (35-30-13) at St. Louis Blues (52-19-7), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Capitals will try to keep their playoff hopes alive for another day, but must do so on Tuesday night against the Western Conference leading St. Louis Blues.
The Capitals did themselves no favors with a recent 0-3-2 skid that was finally snapped with Saturday's 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders.
Washington has four games to play in the regular season and is four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the East's second wild card berth. The Blue Jackets also have four games remaining and host the Phoenix Coyotes tonight.
Rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov was one of three goal-scorers for the Capitals in regulation on Saturday, then netted the lone tally of the shootout. Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward also scored in regulation, while Braden Holtby came up with 35 saves in Washington's first victory since March 22.
"I don't think there's any relief. We have a hefty job to do still," Holtby said. "So I think that's one step that we needed to do, and we have to keep building, have to keep finding a way to win games like we did tonight."
Forward Dustin Penner did not play due to an upper-body injury, while defenseman Mike Green sat out the final 45 minutes of the contest with an upper-body issue. Green did not travel with the team for this game.
The Blues have already assured themselves a spot in the postseason and find themselves in a pair of races down the stretch. St. Louis is closing in on a Central Division title and also is in the running for the Presidents' Trophy.
The Blues are two points back of the Boston Bruins for the most in the NHL with four games left for each team, and the Bruins visit the Minnesota Wild tonight.
St. Louis also is four points up on the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the division.
The Blues will be looking to rebound after dropping back-to-back games over the weekend. They were bested 4-0 by the Avalanche on Saturday and then lost 4-2 at the Chicago Blackhawks the following day.
Brian Elliott made 31 saves for St. Louis, while Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka scored.
"We're a little bit tired," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "We still have four more games to play. We have a lot of hockey to play yet and have to find a way to re-energize ourselves and get back to work."
Forward Alexander Steen, who leads the Blues with 33 goals and 60 points, has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury and is questionable for tonight.
The Capitals have won three of their last four versus the Blues, including a 4-1 victory at home on Nov. 17. Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Holtby notched 46 saves.
Jaroslav Halak got the start for the Blues and allowed three goals on six shots before getting pulled less than 16 minutes into the game, with Elliott stopping 13 shots in relief.
Halak is now currently a member of the Capitals, having been dealt to Buffalo prior to the trade deadline in the deal that landed Ryan Miller with the Blues. Halak was then later flipped by the Sabres to the Capitals and could start tonight.
Halak is 4-4-3 with a 2.53 goals against average in 11 games with the Capitals, but 0-3-2 in his last five. He has faced the Blues only once before, making 25 saves in a shootout loss while with Montreal on March 18, 2008.
Holtby's victory in November came in his first ever meeting with the Blues.
Miller is expected to get the start for the Blues and he is 15-11-0 with a 2.45 GAA and three shutouts in his career versus the Capitals.
Washington is visiting St. Louis for the first time since a 4-1 victory on Dec. 1, 2010. That snapped an eight-game series road losing streak and gave the Capitals their first victory in St. Louis since Oct. 26, 1996.
04/08 10:49:53 ET