Capitals Notebook

Schedule Opens With Daunting Challenges

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2009

There will be no easing into the 2009-10 regular season for Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

The two-time defending Southeast Division champions will open against the Bruins in Boston on Oct. 1 in a matchup of the Eastern Conference's top regular season teams from a year ago.

That game kicks off what figures to be a daunting first 10 days of the season. The Capitals will host the revamped Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 3, then travel to Philadelphia to face Chris Pronger and the Flyers on Oct. 6. Two nights later, Washington will welcome back Donald Brashear when the New York Rangers come to Verizon Center before the Capitals head to Detroit to face the Stanley Cup runner-up Red Wings.

"We play good teams right off the bat, and that's what you want," General Manager George McPhee said. "There's one stretch where we play a lot of road games in late November [and] early December. But other than that, we're happy with how it worked out."

McPhee was referring to a grueling span from Nov. 14 to Dec. 19, when the Capitals will play 13 of 17 on the road.

The season begins a week earlier than usual to accommodate a 17-day hiatus from mid-February through early March for the Vancouver Olympics, where as many as seven Capitals could represent five countries. Still, there are only 13 sets of back-to-back contests -- the same number as last year and four fewer than the last Olympic year.

Other schedule highlights:

-- There's no home game on New Year's Day for the first time since 1989 (excluding the lockout shortened 1994-95 season). The only game that day will be the Winter Classic between the Flyers and Bruins at Fenway Park. "Maybe our turn will come in the next year or two," McPhee said of the showcase outdoor event. "It would have been nice to play in it, but we're not."

-- The Capitals are in Montreal on Nov. 28 and there are preliminary discussions about playing the game at Olympic Stadium instead of Bell Centre. "It's 50-50 as to whether it's going to happen or not," McPhee said.

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