[AP Preview - WashingtonCaps.com Preview]
Rumor has it that Vancouver Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis will be in town tonight to take in the Caps game (jp5). In all likelihood, this is because Gillis - Michael Nylander's former agent - is trying to acquire the Swedish pivot from Washington via trade. Or it's because the Canucks are playing the Caps. One or the other.
Tonight - the first meeting between the teams since Alex Ovechkin nearly van Goghed Chris Clark last season - should be Matt Pettinger's triumphant return to D.C., but he's busy (finally) reporting to the AHL after clearing waivers last week (I bet a million bucks goes a long way in Manitoba). The Canucks will also be without rugged blueliner Kevin Bieksa, who's back in Western Canada getting an MRI on his knee (but hey, they've still got Willie Mitchell, who you'd hope would be better prepared for Donald Brashear's left than he was for Jarome Iginla's, should the two tussle).
The Caps are 0-4-1 against the 'Nucks since Valentine's Day, 2001, and Roberto Luongo has a career record of 15-9-3 with a 2.14 GAA and .933 save percentage against the Caps, so, um, the hometown boys are due. One person who shouldn't be intimidated by Bobby Lou, however, is one of the two guys who doesn't have to worry about scoring on him, namely tonight's backup goaltender, Jose Theodore, who has a career 17-7-1-2 record in head-to-head matchups against his fellow Quebecer, including three shutouts.
As we noted yesterday, 1-1 is a hell of a lot better than 0-2 with Luongo ahead. By the same measure, 2-1 is a hell of a lot better than 1-2 with a trip to Pittsburgh and a visit from Martin Brodeur later in the week. Two big points are out there - go get 'em.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Craig Custance takes a look at how AO will try to top his MVP season.... James Duthie weighs in on Ovi the rock star (who, incidentally, doesn't want to be a movie star).... Some SED love at NHL.com.... The Hockey News predicts another Calder Cup for Hershey (thanks to MVP-to-be Keith Aucoin)... In case you're wondering which of the Caps' AHL goalies will be loaned out, it looks like it'll be Michal Neuvirth (and a couple more Bears will be heading to South Carolina).... Finally, FYI, Braden Holtby is 5-3-0/2.39/.916 for Saskatoon of the WHL.