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Cincinnati PG Wright limited by knee sprain

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Cincinnati PG Wright limited by knee sprain

CINCINNATI (AP) Point guard Cashmere Wright will be limited by a sprained knee - if he plays at all - when Cincinnati hosts No. 25 Marquette on Saturday, trying to end a three-game losing streak at home.

The senior sprained his right knee early in the second half of a 75-70 win at DePaul on Tuesday night and had to be helped off the court. Coach Mick Cronin said on Thursday that Wright's status for the game is uncertain.

``Obviously there's minor adjustments we'll make that are some pluses, some minuses,'' Cronin said. ``We probably become a bigger, more physical team when he's out of the lineup. We played a lot of quality minutes without him (at DePaul). We did a lot of good things without him on the floor.''

Cincinnati (15-3, 3-2 Big East) is going to have to do that again against Marquette (13-3, 4-0), which is one of three teams left with perfect Big East records. The Bearcats have leaned on Wright heavily the last few weeks. He has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, and had 20 points and seven assists when he got hurt with more than 15 minutes left in the game on Tuesday night.

Wright averages 15.1 points per game, second to Sean Kilpatrick's 17.3 points per game. Kilpatrick has been in a shooting slump lately, scoring 7, 15, 10 and 18 points the last four games. He's only 12 of 40 from behind the 3-point arc in the last six games, three of which the Bearcats have lost.

If Wright misses the game, the Bearcats will have guard JaQuon Parker and sophomore point guard Ge'Lawn Guyn handle the ball more often.

``With Ge'Lawn and Parker that can run the point - and sometimes me - we should be OK,'' Kilpatrick said. ``But with him being on the floor, it makes it a lot easier for everybody else. He's used to that position. We do need him.''

The game has a little extra significance for Cincinnati, which opened the season by winning its first 12 games and was No. 8 in late December, its highest ranking in nine years. A 55-54 loss to New Mexico started a stretch of three straight home losses - the Bearcats also dropped games against St. John's and Notre Dame - that knocked them out of the Top 25.

Cincinnati received the 26th-most points in this week's AP poll. Marquette moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season and beat Seton Hall 69-62 on Wednesday night.

The Bearcats haven't lost on the road or at a neutral site. They're only 8-3 at home, a surprising statistic.

``The biggest mistake teams make is thinking we're at home, we're going to win,'' Cronin said. ``We've made the adjustment in the last few games in taking each game separately.

``So that's all we're trying to focus on. If you don't have that focus at home, it's probably because you're relaxing mentally.''

The Bearcats will play two of the three teams with perfect league records in the next few days. After hosting Marquette on Saturday night, they play at No. 6 Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) on Monday afternoon.

Cincinnati doesn't play No. 1 Louisville (16-1, 4-0) until March 4. The games against Marquette and Syracuse will give them an idea of how they match up against some of the conference's best at the moment. The Bearcats are alone in fourth place in the league.

``We know that these are (two of) the top teams in the league right now, playing at an extremely high level,'' Kilpatrick said. ``That's something we've got to keep fighting for. If we continue to play the way we have been doing, we should be all right.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Ovechkin-less Caps win in Montreal in return from the All-Star break

Ovechkin-less Caps win in Montreal in return from the All-Star break

With Alex Ovechkin serving a one-game suspension, the Capitals still were able to pull out a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday in the team's return from the all-star break.

The power play contributed a goal despite the loss of Ovechkin and Braden Holby played well late in the game to preserve the win.

Here is how Washington won.

The power play

Coming into Monday's game, the Caps had the 30th ranked power play since Dec. 1 striking at only 14.1-percent. With no Ovechkin, it seemed unlikely that the power play would be able to suddenly find success against Montreal. Yet, the power play looked much improved with crisp puck movement that kept the Canadiens guessing. The puck movement was much quicker and more deliberate than the power play had shown of late which has looked far too slow and indecisive.
Washington cashed in with a goal from Tom Wilson as Jakub Vrana fed him from behind the net and he beat the defense to the slot.

Petry’s second goal

Jeff Petry opened the scoring with a goal for Montreal in the first period. Wilson tied the game at 1, but Petry scored again early in the second period...for the Caps.

Brendan Leipsic tipped the puck behind the net and Lars Eller grabbed it and tried to stuff it. He couldn't. Travis Boyd then tipped the puck in front of the net where Petry was trying to cover the back door to help out netminder Cary Price. Instead of helping, however, he ended up kicking the puck into his own net giving him one goal for each team and giving the Caps the 2-1 lead.

Kuznetsov on his butt

All-star defenseman Shea Weber had the puck in Montreal's defensive zone and was pressured by Evgeny Kuznetsov. In terms of a forecheck matchup, you would have to give the edge to Weber in that situation and nine times out of 10, you'd be right. This time, however, Weber lost the puck behind him with Kuznetsov pressuring. Weber turned and knocked over Kuznetsov to try to get to the puck. On his butt, Kuznetsov still managed to get a stick to the puck, passed it to T.J. Oshie who dropped it off to Jakub Vrana. Vrana netted it for his 23rd goal of the season, but the play was all started by the great forecheck by Kuznetsov.

Holtby's third period

When Holtby is feeling it, he is hard to beat. Protecting the Caps' lead, Holtby was strong in the final frame with 14 saves on 15 shots. The save of the night came when Joel Armia tried to tip a puck past Holtby and succeeded. The puck hit the post and Armia raised his arms to celebrate. Holtby, however, plucked the puck out of the air with the glove before it could cross the line which was confirmed by review.

Holtby had plenty of struggles heading into the all-star break, but was strong in the team's return with 31 saves.

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A response game for Holtby, a butt pass and some power for the power play

A response game for Holtby, a butt pass and some power for the power play

The Capitals made sure the one-game suspension to Alex Ovechkin did not cost them with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Better power play

Even without Alex Ovechkin, the power play looked much improved. The most noticeable improvement was the puck movement.

One of the issues on the power play has been slow and indecisive puck movement. The Caps were much quicker with their passes on Monday and kept the puck constantly moving which kept Montreal guessing.

Washington's power play has focused largely on position over movement which is fine and was productive for several years years. Lately, however, if the passes the players want aren't open, they freeze up with the puck, hold onto it too long, then try to force passes through covered passing lanes. On Monday, each time a player took a pass, the puck was off their stick shortly after. They already knew where the puck was going when they got the puck and quickly moved it not allowing the penalty kill to get set.

The key now will be continuing that puck movement when Ovechkin returns.

A good night for Holtby

If you're going to get all over Braden Holtby for every bad game, you have to give him credit when he has a good one. Holtby allowed only two goals on Monday. The first was a 3-on-2 with Dmitry Orlov and T.J. Oshie playing defense and Orlov misplayed it allowing Jeff Petry wide open in front of the net. The second came as Dale Weiss was also left alone in front of the net. Holtby played it awkwardly coming out to challenge Weiss, but did not extend the pads to try to force Weiss wide and gave him too much room. Still, the defense left him out to dry in both situations.

Otherwise, it was a very strong game.

Holtby made 14 saves in the third period alone and 31 saves overall for a .939 save percentage on the night. It is the first time in eight games he has managed a save percentage over .900.

Turning point

Montreal took a 1-0 lead off a Jeff Petry goal and the Canadiens were all over the Caps to start. Then Washington earned a power play opportunity and, well, it was awful with Ovechkin, surely it would be terrible without him. Instead, Wilson scored to tie the game and the power play looked much improved. Suddenly, the Caps were back in the game.

Play of the game

This is great forecheck work by Evgeny Kuznetsov on one of the best defensemen in the game, Shea Weber. He forced a turnover then made the pass from his butt to set up the goal.

Stat of the game

Lars Eller loves playing against Montreal. He recorded one assist and was one of the Caps' best players on Monday.

Quote of the game

Holtby has had struggles in the past, but he always seems to rebound at some point and return to his dominant self. Todd Reirden called Monday's game a "response" performance for the netminder after his best performance in several weeks.


Fan predictions

Close. The Caps rebounded from a 1-0 deficit and ended up winning 4-2.

Saw a lot of predictions for two goals for Richard Panik who played in Ovechkin's spot on the top line. Panik had two shots on goal, but no points in 12:35 of even-strength ice time.

No goals for John Carlson, but Holtby did have a strong game and the Caps had a two-goal win.

Bold.

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