By Kate Hedlin
Washington (43-21-6) at Atlanta (28-35-6), 7:30 pm EDT
ATLANTA (Ticker) — Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals against
the Atlanta Thrashers than any team he’s faced in his NHL
career. Should he notch his 24th against them on Monday night,
it would also mark a milestone for the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin looks to become the first Washington player to score 50
goals in three seasons, and the Capitals try for a franchise
record-tying sixth straight road win as they face the Thrashers,
who will be going for a record of their own.
The division-leading Capitals are coming off a 5-4 shootout win
over Carolina – their closest competitor in the Southeast – on
Saturday. Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each scored once in
regulation and in the tiebreaker.
Semin also had three assists, extending his point streak to a
career-high nine games. He has seven goals and nine assists
during that stretch.
Ovechkin has been hot as well, as the reigning MVP has seven
goals and seven assists during a 10-game run. The top overall
pick in the 2004 draft, Ovechkin scored 52 goals as a rookie in
2005-06, and a franchise-record 65 last season.
“We’ll see. If it happens, it happens,” Ovechkin said off the
impending milestone. He had a hat trick with an assist on Nov.
26 in a 5-3 home win over Atlanta.
Washington, which begins a five-game road trip with this
contest, hasn’t won six in a row away from home since closing
out the 1983-84 season.
Overall, the Capitals have won three in a row after an 0-3-1
stretch., and they’re looking to win 44 games for the first time
“I think guys realize what it takes to be an elite team in this
league,” forward David Steckel said. “I think (the recent slide)
has caused guys to step up. We don’t want to take it anymore.”
The Thrashers, meanwhile, are looking to win a franchise-best
sixth straight overall under rookie head coach John Anderson.
With captain and leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk out due to an
upper-body injury, Atlanta rallied for a 4-3 shootout win over
Buffalo on Saturday.
The Thrashers trailed 3-1 at the end of the second period, but
Marty Reasoner and Todd White scored in the third, and Brett
Sterling notched the only shootout goal hours after being
recalled from the minors.
“I was kind of surprised,” Sterling said. “I haven’t done great
in shootouts in the American league the last two years, but
(Anderson) gave me an opportunity. I had to put it upstairs, and
I got it right up.”
Sterling played for Anderson when they were with the AHL’s
Koavlchuk, who’s tallied 36 goals with 42 assists in 68 games,
is expected to be re-evaluated on Monday. He has a goal and four
assists against the Capitals this season.
Washington has won two of three against Atlanta in 2008-09. The
Caps’ 7-4 loss at Phillips Arena came on October 10 in the
season opener for both teams.