Caps visit Maple Leafs

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight for an important battle in Eastern Conference playoff race at Air Canada Centre.

After missing one game with a lower-body injury, Ovechkin was back on the ice for Washington in Friday's 4-1 victory over visiting Montreal. Ovechkin scored a goal to help the Capitals halt a three-game losing streak and win for just the second time in eight outings.

The victory also allowed Washington to tie Toronto for the ninth seed in the East and the clubs enter Saturday's action trailing Florida by just one point for the conference's eighth and final postseason berth. The Panthers also play tonight at Carolina.

The Maple Leafs, who last qualified for the playoffs in the spring of 2004, have not helped their postseason chances lately, losing three straight and seven of their last eight contests. Toronto will try to get back on track tonight against a Washington club that has gotten the better of the Leafs in recent years.

Washington is 5-1-1 in the last seven encounters against the Maple Leafs, but Toronto routed the Capitals in this year's first meeting between the clubs at Air Canada Centre. Toronto slammed the Caps by a 7-1 margin back on Nov. 22, as Tyler Bozak posted two goals and an assist for the hosts. It was Toronto's fourth win in the last six home meetings against Washington.

While the Caps are just outside the playoff picture in the East, they are also still very much alive in the race for the Southeast Division title. Florida is second in the division and Winnipeg is just two points ahead of the Caps for the top spot. Washington has won the last four division titles.

Washington's Michal Neuvirth stopped 30 shots to help the Capitals take down the Canadiens on Friday. It was Neuvirth's first start since Feb. 12, but Tomas Vokoun is expected to get the call in net tonight.

Jason Chimera had a goal and an assist while Ovechkin, Joel Ward, and Mathieu Perreault scored for the Capitals, who won despite going 0-for-6 on the power play.

"I thought we played solid," said Caps forward Brooks Laich. "I didn't think we gave them -- especially their top guys -- many chances at all. You could see frustration on their face. We just have to have that. We have to find a way to have that all the time."

Washington will try to end a three-game road skid tonight. The Caps are just 10-18-3 away from D.C. this year compared to a 20-8-2 record at home.

Toronto is playing the third test of a four-game homestand tonight and is 0-1-1 so far on the residency. Overall, the Leafs, who will complete the stand Tuesday against Florida, are 16-10-5 as the host this year.

The Maple Leafs last played on Thursday and were dealt a 2-1 regulation loss by the San Jose Sharks. Patrick Marleau scored both goals for the visitors and Antti Niemi made 29 saves for the win.

Jake Gardiner scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, who fell to 1-6-1 over their last eight games. James Reimer stopped 23-of-25 shots for Toronto.

"We just couldn't get the offense going," Reimer said. "They're big in the front and the back end. They're tough."

Leafs forward Tim Connolly leads all Toronto players with 24 points in 36 career games against Washington. He has a goal and an assist in two tilts versus the Caps this season.