NHL Odds Preview: Washington at Phoenix

By: Michael Robinson | Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ilya Bryzgalov’s five shutouts are tied for fourth-best in the NHL.

The Washington Capitals are still trying to find their long-lost offensive game as they start a five-game road trip Monday night at the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Capitals (29-17-10 for 68 points) are in second place in the Southeast Division, behind surprising Tampa Bay, and tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They’ve played some of their better hockey against Tampa this year (3-0-1).

Washington has had some tough luck overall. No team in the league has more OT losses, which is one reason for its decline after a league-leading 121 points last year.

Scoring is another huge issue, with a 2.66 goals per game average (ranked 19th) after an incredible 3.82 last year (easily first). Superstar Alex Ovechkin is the biggest culprit with just 21 goals (20th in the NHL) after 50 last season (ranked third).

The Capitals showed some offensive spark recently with a 5-2 win at Tampa Bay on Feb. 4 and a 3-0 home shutout of Pittsburgh on Feb. 6. Second-leading goal scorer (18) Alexander Semin was also returning the next game after missing 12 games (groin) and it looked like the offense might finally be turning around.

Instead, Washington lost 2-0 to San Jose last Tuesday and 4-1 to Los Angeles on Saturday. Both games were at home. Ovechkin did have the one goal, with the rest of the team getting blanked.

The ‘under’ is 3-0 in the Capitals’ last three games and 11-1-1 in the last 13. They’re easily the biggest ‘under’ team for the year (40-15-1).

Coach Bruce Boudreau now needs his team to refocus for this trip. The road has been a battle (12-10-3) and Washington is 0-6 in its last six games against the Western Conference.

Boudreau has gotten good overall play from goalies Semyon Varlamov (9-8-4, 2.22 GAA) and Michal Neuvirth (16-7-4, 2.45 GAA). Monday’s starter is not known. Goals allowed (2.41) ranks sixth overall in the NHL.

The Coyotes (29-19-9, 67 points) are tied for fourth place in the Western Conference. They’re in second in the very competitive Pacific Division, where five points separate top-dog Dallas (68) and bottom-dweller Los Angeles (63).

Phoenix comes into this game on a four-game winning streak. The last two came in overtime at Dallas and home to Chicago (both 3-2 wins).

The ‘under’ is 4-0 in Phoenix’s last four games, allowing four total goals. The ‘over’ is 32-23-2 for the year.

Phoenix is 12th in the NHL in scoring (2.79), with goals allowed (2.75) ranking 14th. This is a balanced offense with 10 players scoring at least 21 points, with defenseman Keith Yandle the leader at just 46.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is tied for fifth in the league in starts (45) and his 2.58 GAA ranks 18th in the NHL. He’s been in net the last 15 games.

Phoenix has surprisingly been more successful away (16-9-4) than at home (13-10-5). However, three games in this winning streak have come at home over Minnesota (1-0), Colorado (3-0) and Chicago (3-2 in OT).

These teams last met in January of last year, with Washington winning 4-2 at home. The ‘under’ is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings overall.

Phoenix is just 2-11 in its last 13 against the Eastern Conference.

There are no significant injuries to report. The puck will drop from Jobing.com Arena at 6 p.m. (PT) and be broadcast on Versus.

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