By Bill Sands
The All-Star break has come and gone and it’s time for the Washington Capitals to get back to playing real hockey. The Caps will try to shake off the rust and kick things off with a Wednesday Night Rivalry game against their old foes the Philadelphia Flyers.
Washington: The Caps headed into the break with a solid 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Alex Ovechkin had another milestone night with his 500th assist and scored a goal for his 30th of the year.
There’s not much new to report for the Capitals ahead of Wednesday’s game, as the team has been inactive for almost a week. Ovechkin won the hardest shot competition during the skills competition and Braden Holtby had a solid showing in the All-Star Game, but the rest of the team had a few days off to collect their thoughts and get ready for a busy February.
Taking a week off between games is nothing new for Washington, who have had multiple breaks this month. Hopefully they’ve gotten used to the layoffs, because they’ll be heading into a hostile arena for a game with a fierce rival.
Philadelphia: Being rusty coming off a break won’t be an excuse for Washington this time, as the Flyers have also been on an extended break. Philly last played on Thursday the 25th when they suffered an ugly 5-1 loss at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Philly preceded that loss with a pair of overtime wins, including a matinee win against the Caps last Sunday.
It’s been an up-and-down year for the Flyers, who have bounced back from a horrid 10-game losing streak to return to the playoff picture. Philadelphia has had no problem with Washington this year, with an 8-2 drubbing back in October.
As they often have, Philadelphia plays a fast and physical game. Look for the Flyers to use their speed early and often as they try to take advantage of a Caps team that may take a while to regain its timing. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek are constant threats, and Wayne Simmonds is sure to use his big body and soft hands to create trouble.
The Caps need to get their week off to a good start because things won’t get any easier going forward. After Wednesday’s game, the Caps play Pittsburgh on Friday and Vegas on Sunday. Both teams are playing well (especially Vegas) and a good win will give Washington a surge of confidence that they’ll sorely need.