Ben Raby, wtop.com
With six of their next seven games at home, Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau sees an opportunity for his team to snap out of its recent funk.
The Caps (10-7-1) returned to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex Sunday afternoon, following a winless three-game road trip in which Washington was outscored 14-3 in Nashville, Winnipeg and Toronto.
The Capitals will look to rebound Monday in their only meeting of the season against the Phoenix Coyotes (Pregame at 6:45 on WFED 1500AM & www.wfed.com.
Overall the Capitals have lost four straight and six of their last seven games to fall to second place in the Southeast Division, two points behind the Florida Panthers (10-6-3).
"We know we haven't played our best hockey," said Capitals forward Brooks Laich. "One thing we've got to do is cut down on the goals against. We have to stop getting scored on.
"It might sound weird, but you start scoring goals from defensive hockey. When you pay the price, when you do things right defensively… you end up getting rewarded offensively. That's where our game has to be built up from."
It's no secret that the Capitals have struggled in all three zones of late as they have been outscored 27-13 in the last seven games.
The Capitals are also scoreless in their last 25 power play opportunities and Alex Ovechkin has just one goal in his last six games with a minus-seven rating over that span. The Caps' captain leads the team with seven goals on the season, but is still searching for his first tally on home ice.
For Phoenix, Monday's meeting with the Caps is the finale of a five-game road trip which has seen the Coyotes win three of four so far.
Alexander Semin found himself in a rare position at Sunday's practice - skating as an extra on the Caps' fourth line alongside Matt Hendricks, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Perreault.
Semin has four goals in 18 games this season, nowhere near the 13 he scored through 18 games last season. At this point a year ago, Semin already had two hat-tricks and five multi-point games.
"People don't realize [Semin] tries," Boudreau said. "He's not used to not scoring goals. At this time last year he might have had 13 or 14 goals… So when you're stuck on four goals you do things that you probably wouldn't normally do. And you try to do too much and be too cute to get the perfect goal."
Despite his efforts, Semin's early season struggles have been further compounded by his frequent trips to the penalty box. Fourteen times this season Semin has been called for a two-minute minor penalty- second most in the NHL behind only Anaheim's Corey Perry (15).
Semin did not see the ice in the third period of the Capitals 3-1 in New Jersey two Fridays ago, but his rotating into the fourth line at Sunday's practice suggests that he could be a healthy scratch against Phoenix.
"Infer what you want," Boudreau said. "If everybody's healthy two guys got to sit so we have to figure out who it's going to be."
ORLOV SET TO MAKE NHL DEBUT:
With defenseman Mike Green still sidelined (groin) and the Caps struggling in their own end, the club announced Sunday that they have recalled prospect Dmitry Orlov from AHL Hershey.
It is unlikely the Capitals would have promoted Orlov with his $900,000 NHL salary counting against the cap if they were not intending on dressing him Monday against Phoenix.
Orlov, 20, is a puck moving defenseman with NHL-caliber speed and a heavy shot. In 15 AHL games this season the 6-foot, 210-pound Orlov has four goals and nine points.
"We just thought we needed a little shake up," Boudreau explained. "He's just somebody with a little more energy from the backend."
Boudreau also said that according to Hershey head coach Mark French, Orlov has been "by far" the Bears best defenseman this season.
If Orlov plays Monday, Jeff Schultz is a likely candidate to sit.
ON THE FARM:
Like the Capitals, the Hershey Bears are also on a four-game losing streak. The Bears dropped a pair of shootouts this weekend, 3-2 Friday in Syracuse and 6-5 Saturday at home against Albany.
The Bears (7-4-3-2) sit in third place in the East Division and return to the ice Wednesday night at Giant Center against the Providence Bruins (8-10-1-1).
Down a level, the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays completed a three-game weekend series against the Gwinnett Gladiators with a 6-1 win Sunday.