The teams are the same, but the ice surface is different tonight as the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals complete half their season's series in the space of 25 hours.
Tonight's locale at 7:30 is Capital Centre, where the teams divided a pair of one-goal games a year ago. The game will be broadcast on a delayed basis at 9:45 p.m. on WTOP-1500. Since they tied both meetings at the Checkerdome, site of last night's contest, they could hardly have been more evenly matched.
Entering last night's game, the Capitals had earned 11 points, the Blues 10, and each was hoping to feast on the other before turning to Thanksgiving turkey and more difficult competition.
The Capitals' next contest is at Capital Centre next Saturday night against Boston, a team Washington never has beaten. St. Louis must spend the holiday on the road because of a Friday night date at Atlanta.
The Capitals will be missing rookie forward Ryan Walter, nursing stretched ligaments in his left knee, the one that required surgery in September.
A year ago, when each team scored nine goals in the four meetings, center Garry Unger collected one third of the Blues' total. Unger presently is struggling with a sprained back, making mere token appearances to continue his NHL iron-man record that reached 823 consecutive games Sunday.
The Blues' leading scorers are rookie right wing Wayne Babych and third-year center Bernie Federko, each with 24 points. Both were first-round draft picks.
Left wing Brian Sutton has recorded 13 goals and also leads the Blues in penalty minutes with 56. Unger has 10 goals, center Mike Walton seven.
The Blues have been struggling defensively, allowing 101 goals in their first 19 games for a 5.32 average, the NHL's worst. Phil Myre, who has done the bulk of the work in the nets, owns a 4.99 mark, more than one goal higher than Washington's Jim Bedard.
St. Louis continues to subsidize stockholders of airlines that service Salt Lake City, recently dispatching goalie Doug Grant and defensemen Dick Lamby, Neil Komadoski and Jamie Masters to the Central Hockey League farm club.
Coming in the other direction were goalee Ed Staniowski, defensemen Bruce Affleck and Jack Brownschilde, and wingers John Smrke and Tony Currie.
Babych and Currie are former teammates of Washington's Paul Mulvey with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Junior League. Former Capital Harvey Bennett has recorded one assist in 16 games with the Blues.