Capitals can’t afford to suffer a let down against Minnesota

March 25, 2012

Sandwiched between big matchups with significant playoff implications against Eastern Conference foes Winnipeg and Buffalo, is the Capitals’ Sunday matinee against the Minnesota Wild.

It’s the lone time this season the two teams will meet, but even if Minnesota isn’t an opponent the Capitals are battling for the postseason they can’t afford to suffer a let down.

Washington sits in ninth place with 82 points heading into this matchup with the Wild, which is 3-7-0 in its past 10 outings. This is the Capitals’ game in hand on the Buffalo Sabres, who reside in eighth place with 84 points after beating Minnesota 3-1 on Saturday. Gaining two points against the Wild would push Washington back into a playoff position.

“Every two points is huge for us right now,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “They battled with Buffalo last night, it was a tight game. They come out to play, they’re working hard they play tight defensive hockey so we’re going to have to be tight defensively and capitalize on our chances.”

Washington would also like to take advantage of the opportunity to get back on track quickly after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Jets on Friday that saw the team cough up a three-goal lead. The memory of that defeat could even help fuel the Capitals early, Karl Alzner said.

“We’ve got to remember how much it stung [Friday] night losing the way we did,” Alzner said. “Kind of bring a little bit of emotion into that game [against Minnesota] especially into the first period. Have a short memory but don’t completely forget about it.”

Quick pregame notes:

— Neither Hunter nor Wild Coach Mike Yeo would divulge their starting goaltenders for the contest. Check back after warmup for the Capitals’ projected lineup and whether Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby get the nod this afternoon.

— Joel Ward will miss a second straight game with a lower-body injury, Hunter said. With Ward out again, the Capitals’ forward line combinations may look similar to what was used against Winnipeg.

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