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Canadiens Vs. Capitals: Caps Host Habs In First Game After All-Star Break

It seems that the Montreal Canadiens always appear on the Washington Capitals' schedule right before a big game. Earlier this season, the Canadiens provided a test for the Caps before their first game with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the Caps and Canadiens will face off again in an important game for Washington.

After a sub-par ending before the All-Star Break that saw them lose a 2-1 shootout decision to the New York Rangers and a 1-0 shutout to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Capitals will look to get back on track against the Canadiens. Not only that, but Washington's next two games are incredibly important; the Caps travel to Tampa Bay to face the Lightning Friday in a pivotal Southeast Division contest and return home on Super Bowl Sunday to face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since the Winter Classic.

But before all of that, the Capitals will look to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference standings with a win. Washington is currently in fifth place, eight points behind first place Philadelphia and four points behind Tampa Bay for the division lead. The Capitals will have to find some type of scoring touch; they have scored nine goals in their last five games and are 17th in GF/G at 2.7.

It is possible that the Caps could regain some of that missing offense with the return of Alexander Semin, who signed a one-year, $6.7 million extension last week. Semin did practice with the team Monday despite starting off the day wearing a yellow, no-contact practice jersey. If he returns, Semin will play for the first time since January 8. The Caps need Semin to contribute; he hasn't scored since November 28.

Montreal, on the other hand, is clinging onto the seventh spot, two points ahead of eighth place Atlanta and three points ahead of ninth place Carolina. They will have to go the rest of the season without two of their top defensemen, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, who are both out with injuries. Montreal is doing just fine so far, going 6-2-2 in their last 10.