The Washington Capitals will try to rebound after a rough overtime loss when they host the Minnesota Wild for tonight's interconference clash at the Verizon Center.
The Capitals fell to 1-2-2 in their last five games after blowing a three-goal lead in Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to visiting Winnipeg. That setback came one day after Washington dropped a 2-1 shootout decision in Philadelphia.
Washington desperately needs a win tonight, as it is currently two points behind Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Sabres are idle today and will next play on Tuesday when they visit Washington for an important battle in the postseason race.
The Capitals have not fared well in recent years against Minnesota, losing six of the last eight encounters in this series. Washington, however, has won four of the five all-time meetings in D.C.
Washington opened a three-game homestand Friday against the Jets and the Capitals built a 3-0 lead by the early stages of the second period before Winnipeg scored three unanswered goals to push the game to overtime. The setback dropped Washington to 23-10-4 as the host this season.
Winnipeg's Tim Stapleton ended Friday's game with 2:23 left in overtime, beating Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth with a high, quick wrister from the left circle.
"We took our foot off the gas," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We just fell apart pretty much. It was an embarrassing, embarrassing loss."
Alex Ovechkin tallied twice for the Capitals, while Neuvirth ended with 38 saves in defeat. Ovechkin is riding a four-game goal-scoring streak and has six tallies over that stretch to give him 35 on the season.
Tomas Vokoun, Washington's regular starting goaltender, has sat out the last four games with a groin injury and is questionable for today. Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have split starts while Vokoun has rested. Neuvirth is 0-1-1 in Vokoun's absence and Holtby is 1-0-1 during that stretch.
Caps centerman Nicklas Backstrom has been out since Jan. 3 due to a concussion, but he was cleared for full participation in practice on Saturday. Although he appears to be nearing his return to the ice, there is still no word on when he will actually see game action.
Backstrom was Washington's leading scorer when he was injured, and despite missing the last 37 games, he is still fourth on the team with 42 points.
The Wild, who have been all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race out West, are coming off Saturday's loss in Buffalo. Marcus Foligno scored the game-winning goal early in the third period to lift the Sabres to the 3-1 win at First Niagara Center.
Steven Kampfer scored the lone goal for the Wild, while Josh Harding gave up two goals on 36 shots.
Minnesota is 14-18-6 as the road team this season and is wrapping a two-game trip tonight. The Wild will begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against the New York Rangers.