Despite Winter Classic buildup, Caps focused on Montreal
Before the game on Saturday that has created a swirl of attention around the Capitals, Penguins and the NHL, Washington will first face its nemesis from last spring in the Montreal Canadiens. While several players noted a certain desire to avenge the Capitals' early playoff exit, there was a greater sense of staying on the course of continual improvement the team has been on since snapping its eight-game losing streak.
"It's important to stay focused and make sure we take care of business and take care of the right things," Nicklas Backstrom said. "When it gets like day before the Winter Classic, that's something you have to think about then. You can't really have thoughts about that right now."
Montreal enters the contest leading the Northeast Division with 42 points, despite having lost six of its past eight contests. The Capitals, meanwhile, are re-establishing their confidence and swagger, collecting points in four straight contests and winning three in that span.
Things weren't perfect in Washington's 3-2 win over Carolina Sunday night, but by playing a simple game of working to get pucks deep and keeping opponents away from the front of their net, the Capitals were able to come out on top. The players and Coach Bruce Boudreau want a more concise game this week, without the two-day holiday break, to keep the momentum going.
"We got away with some stuff [against Carolina]," Boudreau said. "We were trying to do the right things. We made mistakes but we got away with them. We want to eliminate that. We want to make sure the way we play, [that] everybody that's on the ice knows exactly what's going to happen and there's no questions beforehand. It takes time to practice this."
There's a certain sense of urgency for the Capitals after the losing streak to maximize points and take advantage of any chance to move up in the standings -- even if they are ironing out kinks at the same time.
Washington will play only four games in the next 12 days. It's a stretch that can help the Capitals recover from some bumps and bruises while working on the details of their play, but it also presents an opportunity for the teams they're jockeying with in the Southeast Division to take a lead.
"We're building as a group. We've kind of got a lull in the schedule, if we ever do have one, now's the time when we taper back in games played and it gives other teams a chance to catch up," Matt Hendricks said. "We need to keep winning games. We need to try to stay on top as a group, and I think that's the focus. We're not looking so much at particular games or rivalries. Obviously tomorrow's a big game; we want to beat these guys, but we're looking more at the big picture -- staying on top -- and we need two points any chance we have."
Speaking of the Winter Classic, though, we'll have an update on the weather scenarios and options after a conference call with league officials a little later this afternoon.
| December 27, 2010; 3:56 PM ET
Categories: Bruce Boudreau, Matt Hendricks, Montreal Canadiens
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