PHILADELPHIA -- With the Capitals (10-4-0, 20 points) set to visit the Flyers (5-7-3, 13 points) tonight at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. pregame, CSN), here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Stopping Ovi: Alex Ovechkin’s 15-shot performance in the Caps’ 1-0 loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday night marked the first time since the NHL’s 1967-68 expansion that a player recorded that many shots without scoring a goal.
His next goal will make him Russia’s all-time leading NHL goal scorer. He currently sits tied with Sergei Fedorov with 483 goals in 773 games. In 37 career games against the Flyers, Ovechkin has 29 goals and 17 assists for 46 points and is a minus-4.
Ovechkin’s 15 shots matched his career high and marked the 17th time in his career he’s recorded 10 or more shots. Since 1987-88, former Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque has recorded the most shots in a game (19 in 1991), followed by Atlanta’s Marian Hossa (16 in 2006) Ovechkin and Toronto’s Dave Andreychuk (15 in 1993).
Ovechkin has now gone 195 straight games with at least one shot, three games short of his previous mark of 198 straight games with a shot from 2007-10. Bourque once went 360 straight games with at least one shot on goal.
“It’s the release,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets puck through when there are people right in his face. He changes the puck position. It might only be a foot but he gets it by a player’s skate.
“When he comes down off the wing and he cuts to the middle he has that uncanny ability to get around a defender or through the defender. There’s a reason he’s scored as many goals as he has because he has that unique ability to get the puck through.”
No turning back: Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, who will make his 13th start of the season tonight, said he spent time Thursday reviewing the goal-line Andreas Athanasiou goal that squirted under him Tuesday night in Detroit.
“I watched it a bunch and it’s one of those one-in-a-million things you don’t ever think is going to happen,” Holtby said. “We looked at it today and I still don’t know how the puck got under there.”
Holtby said despite outside advice, he’ll continue using the reverse vertical horizontal technique to cover the nearside post.
Getting up early: The Flyers have lost seven of their last eight and are coming off a 4-0 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche in which they were booed off the ice. They are now an NHL worst 0-6-3 when allowing the first goal. The Capitals are 6-1-0 when scoring first.
“They’ll be ready to go,” said Caps goalie Braden Holtby. “I don’t think we’ve been very happy with our last two games, either. They’ve changed their identity a little bit (by hiring Dave Hakstol to replace Craig Berube) so I think we’re going to see a better hockey game now than in the past few years, when we came here and it seemed like a bit of a sideshow at times.”
Holtby, you’ll recall, was involved in a third-period line brawl when Flyers goaltender Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to fight him in a 7-0 Capitals victory on Nov. 1, 2013.
Remember me? T.J. Oshie played under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol when both were at the University of North Dakota, but he also roomed with Flyers center Chris VandeVelde, who has one goal and one assist in 15 games this season.
The Flyers also have goaltender Michael Neivirth, who is expected to back up Steve Mason tonight after allowing four goals in Tuesday night’s loss. Neuvirth, who was taken by the Caps in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft and spent parts of six seasons with the Caps, is 3-3-1 with a 2.08 GAA and .939 SP for Philadelphia.
Caps right wing Justin Williams, 34, broke into the NHL with the Flyers. A first-round pick of Philadelphia in 2000 (28th overall), Williams played four seasons with the Flyers before getting traded to Carolina, where he won his first of three Stanley Cups.
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratches: Brandon Manning
MORE CAPITALS: Prospect Report: Galiev proving he's NHL ready