The Washington Capitals got a rude awakening after being bitten by the San Jose Sharks in a 2-0 shutout loss Tuesday. With the Los Angeles Kings invading Verizon Center for a Saturday matinee, the Caps will look for some California love.
Tuesday's loss was Washington's first of six straight games against Western Conference opponents. The Caps are just 3-5-1 against Western opponents this season and will need a much better effort Saturday to turn things around, especially against a Kings team that is desperately trying to reenter the playoff picture. The Kings are technically in last place in the tight Pacific Division, but only five points separate first from last. Los Angeles is sitting just two points out of eighth place and are doing a good job of hanging on with a 5-0-2 record in their last seven after a 2-10-0 slump sent them on a downward spiral.
The Kings are currently in the midst of a 10-game road trip with their stop in Washington being the fifth game of their recent swing. The Caps, on the other hand, are preparing to head out on their longest road trip of the season thus far; they will head to Phoenix, Anaheim, San Jose, Buffalo and Pittsburgh before returning to Verizon Center Feburary 25. The aforementioned teams are all either in the playoffs or just outside the race as of the start of Friday's action, so the Caps will be tested by teams just as hungry as they are.
Antti Niemi sent the Caps to their eighth shutout of the season Tuesday, but perhaps they could get a bit of relief in net Saturday. Jonathan Quick, 24-14-2 with a 2.13 GAA and .921 SV% this season, could sit after starting the last three games. Starting in place of Quick, who has a career record of 2-0 against Washington with a 2.50 GAA and .931 SV%, would be Jonathan Bernier. As NHL.com points out, if Michal Neuvirth should start, he and Bernier have a history; Neuvirth's Hershey Bears bested Bernier's Manchester Monarchs last season in the AHL Eastern Conference Finals.
Which goalie will be in net for Washington Saturday is still in question, but what seems definite is the return of MIke Green. Green, who sat out Tuesday after taking a puck to the face February 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, feels ready to go and head coach Bruce Boudreau believes he will be in the lineup Saturday.