With the NHL All-Star break officially over, 22 teams will be back in action on Tuesday night. Safe to say that the most anticipated match of the evening will take place in Boston where the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins will host the Washington Capitals. The Southeast Division-leading Caps are in second place in the conference, 10 points in back of the Bruins.
Despite that 10-point lead on Washington, the Bruins have dropped both meetings with the Capitals this season by scores of 3-1 and 2-1. During the last meeting on January 17 in Washington, reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin was penalized for a knee-to-knee hit on defenseman Dennis Wideman -- an action that didn't sit well with the Boston bench that night.
Returning to the Boston lineup on Tuesday after missing seven games is physical winger Milan Lucic. At the Bruins practice yesterday, it was clear Ovechkin was on his mind:
"He's explosive; he's got speed and he's got power. He's got one of if not the best release in the game. He's a dangerous player. He's their best player, and he's a guy we are going to have to key on if we want to be successful.
"I think hitting is a big part of his game. It gets him space and it gets defensemen looking over their shoulders."
One thing is for sure: the last time Boston has had a bone to pick with the Capitals, the Bruins went out of their way to make a statement. On March 3, 2008 in Washington, the Capitals overwhelmed the Bruins, 10-2. But just five days later back in Boston, it was Lucic who dropped the gloves with Washington's Matt Bradley right off the opening faceoff:
Boston would go on to win the game, 2-1.
Meanwhile, on Washington's side of the puck, defenseman Karl Alzner was called up from Hershey of the AHL to take the place in the lineup of either Tom Poti or Shaone Morrisonn. Playing in 26 games in Washington so far this season, Alzner has clearly looked like he's belonged in an NHL lineup on a night in, night out basis. Unfortunately for him, the team's salary cap situation is such that Washington can only call him up when he can spell a teammate who is injured -- an odd spot for a player who has literally nothing left to prove at the minor league level.
So how does tonight's game shape up? The first time the two teams met in December, the Bruins seemed to have a difficult time with Washington's team speed, something that was more or less corrected when they met earlier this month. It was during that second game that Bruins captain Zdeno Chara more or less contained Ovechkin. That left the heroics to fellow Russian Alexander Semin, who beat Tim Thomas with a cannon shot of a slapper from just inside the blue line on the right wing. Don't trust NESN's Jack Edwards on this call -- it's not Brooks Laich, but Semin who scored the goal:
Caps-Bruins Headlines Start of NHL's Second Season originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Tue, 27 Jan 2009 07:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.