One-on-one with Caps coach Dale Hunter
WTOP's Ben Raby reports
Ben Raby, wtop.com
PHILADELPHIA - When the Washington Capitals looked at their schedule two weeks ago, they were met with what appeared to be a daunting task.
From March 10 - 22, the Caps would play six of seven games on the road, including a season-long five-game trip.
The list of opponents included the past two Stanley Cup champions in the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks and two of the NHL's best teams on home ice in the Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings.
But as the Capitals prepare for Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers -- the finale of what was potentially a grueling seven-game stretch -- they do so with the chance to finish with a 5-2-0 record.
"You want to tap right into that feeling we had in Detroit," Mike Knuble said of Monday's 5-3 win against the favored Red Wings. "We want to try to duplicate that. We know it won't happen like that all the time and that was an incredibly great start that we had … so if it doesn't go, hopefully you're tied after one period and can just play a strong road game from there."
Monday in the Motor City the Capitals jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead thanks to an even strength goal from Knuble and a pair of power play tallies from Alex Ovechkin. It marked the first time on the Caps' five-game road trip that Dale Hunter's bunch played with the lead.
"It was big," Hunter said of the early lead. "Any time you go into another arena if you fall behind, fans get behind their team and it's always tough to come back. But we took the fans out of it early in Detroit and it quiets them down."
Ovechkin's two goals on Monday gave him five in the last four games and 32 on the season (one shy of his total from last season).
"He's hitting on all cylinders right now," Hunter said. "Before, he was getting his chances but he was hitting posts and missing the net. But right now, he's in a zone and when you're in a zone good things happen."
Ovechkin could be challenged to keep his hot streak going Thursday against his countryman Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers No.1 goalie has been named the NHL's Player of the Week in each of the past two weeks, and has gone 8-2-1 in the month of March with a 1.28 goals-against-average and a .955 save percentage.
Bryzgalov also has four shutouts in March, including a 1-0 win at Verizon Center on March 4.
The Capitals have not officially announced who will start Thursday night, but it appears as though Braden Holtby will get the nod for the second straight game.
Holtby stopped 30 of 33 shots in Monday's win Detroit. Tomas Vokoun remains sidelined with a groin injury.
Catch the Capitals and Flyers tonight at 7:00 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com
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