Capitals-Maple Leafs Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs have earned all of their points on the road.
They'll try to change that Thursday night when they face a Washington Capitals team off to its worst start in nine years.
After getting outscored 8-1 in the third period of its previous two games - both three-goal losses - Toronto improved to 3-1-0 as the road team with a 4-3 overtime victory over Buffalo on Tuesday.
Matt Frattin scored his second goal of the game with 1.5 seconds left in the extra period.
"I think we just try to come out quick (on the road) and try and get the crowd out of it," said Frattin, who has netted three goals since being called up from the AHL last Thursday. "That's something we need to do in every building we go into."
That includes Air Canada Centre, where the Maple Leafs (3-3-0) will play their next three before opening a three-game trip Tuesday against Washington (1-4-1). Ben Scrivens has given up nine goals in Toronto's two home losses, so coach Randy Carlyle may give James Reimer the nod following Tuesday's 29-save performance.
"Reims is playing really solid for us," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "... He's been there to make the saves when we've had letdowns and breakdowns."
Reimer, though, went 0-2-0 with a 4.09 goals-against average last season versus Washington, which won three of four matchups in this series.
The Capitals have points in 11 of their last 13 games against the Maple Leafs, but they make their only visit to Toronto this season on the heels of Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Ottawa. Washington was in good position to build on Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Sabres but couldn't hold an early two-goal lead.
"We took a lot of momentum out of our last game," said center Matt Hendricks, who scored 4:38 after Troy Brouwer's goal in the first period. "... We expected that momentum to continue, and I think it did for 40 minutes. It's almost hard to take a deep breath in this league."
That's especially true given the condensed 48-game schedule. The Capitals, whose start is their worst since winning once in their first nine games of 2003-04, need to get Alex Ovechkin more involved in rookie coach Adam Oates' offense. The two-time Hart Trophy winner is averaging a career-low 3.3 shots and has one goal, which came Sunday, along with one assist.
Prior to this season, Ovechkin never had fewer than four points in his first six games.
If Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel doesn't score Thursday, it will be the first time he's gone his first seven games without a goal.
Kessel and defenseman Cody Franson, who had a goal and an assist Tuesday, each scored twice last season versus Washington.
Michal Neuvirth has done a decent job in net the last four games, but with a three-game homestand starting Friday against Philadelphia, Oates could give the nod to Braden Holtby.
Holtby, who hasn't played since giving up 10 goals in the Capitals' first two games, made 35 saves in his only start against the Maple Leafs, a 4-1 road victory Jan. 22, 2011.
A winner of three of four in Toronto, Washington is trying to avoid opening with four straight road losses for the first time since 1993-94.
The last time the Maple Leafs failed to win one of their first three home games was 2009-10 (0-4-2).
Updated January 30, 2013