Alex Ovechkin, Jimmy Howard

NHL on NBC: Capitals and Red Wings clash in Washington

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign this afternoon when the Washington Capitals host the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

The Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals meet yet again, this time in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee in D.C.

These two teams just met in Detroit on Friday night in a wild affair that saw Joel Ward score the game-tying goal in the closing seconds. The game rolled on to the shootout where Jimmy Howard stole the show stopping all seven Capitals as Patrick Eaves eventually beat Michal Neuvirth in the seventh round to get the win.

As it was, Neuvirth made 42 saves to keep the Caps in the game in the first place, but both teams have bigger problems to worry about. Both the Caps and Wings are sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Wings are one point back of Philadelphia for the final Wild Card spot while the Caps are three back.

Detroit has been making do without Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) since Jan. 7 and Johan Franzen with a concussion since Dec. 15. Franzen did attempt to return on Jan. 26 against Florida, but wound up out of the lineup again after suffering a setback.

Going without two players picked to their countries’ Olympic teams makes life hard on Detroit’s offense which has been miserable lately, especially on the road. Detroit has been shut out three straight games away from Joe Louis Arena and have never been shut out in four straight.

The Caps have problems of their own, of course. They’re winless in nine of the past 11 games and are without Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) and could be without Mike Green (upper body) and Brooks Laich (groin) as well.

It’s not all negative for the Caps, however. Alex Ovechkin is two goals shy of having his sixth 40-goal season. Joel Ward has a goal in each of the past two games and has 15 this season, good for second on the team. One thing to watch is how the Caps do on the power play. They’ve been quiet lately going 4-for-its-last-44 but they’ve been one of the better teams on the man-advantage this season.

If you’re wondering if the Red Wings road scoring problems could come into play in Washington, know this: The last time the Capitals shut out the Red Wings at home was Dec. 9, 1984 and the Capitals don’t have a shutout at home yet this season.

With all that said, both teams need a win desperately to get in better shape for a playoff run following the Olympic break. Desperation sometimes makes for a great game.

After 11-game absence, Savard (oblique) back for Columbus

David Savard
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These are pretty decent times for the Blue Jackets.

The team is 7-3-2 in its last 12, recently re-upped with Ryan Murray on a two-year deal and, on Friday, announced that blueliner David Savard has been activated from IR after missing the last 11 games to an oblique strain.

Savard, 25, was a pretty integral part of John Tortorella’s defense when healthy. He averaged over 24 minutes per night and had 15 points through 39 games prior to being sidelined by the ailment.

He’ll presumably draw back into the lineup when the Jackets take on Ottawa on Saturday. No word yet on a corresponding roster move.

Who’s got the best/worst combined special teams?

The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.

It was a real nightmare for those guys.

Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.

Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.

Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.

Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:

Rankings

Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.

In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.

On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.

John Scott to return to Habs’ AHL team this weekend

Pacific Division forward John Scott (28) is lifted up by teammates Mark Giordano (5), of the Calgary Flames, Joe Pavelski (8), and Brent Burns (88), of the San Jose Sharks after they defeated the Atlantic Division team 1-0 at an NHL hockey All-Star championship game, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.

Now, he wants to get back to work.

Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.

“It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”

Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.

Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.

Related:

The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?

Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’

 

Goalie nods: Budaj set to make Kings debut

during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
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Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.

Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.

Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.

For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.

Elsewhere…

Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.

Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.

— Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”

— Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.

The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.

Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.