Ducks/Caps Preview: Gabby Returns to DC

Back in familiar stomping grounds - Marianne Helm

Here's hoping the Ducks don't have to get their asses out of their heads in Boudreau's first game coaching against the Caps.

The last time the Ducks visited the Capitals was the game that, arguably, marked the beginning of the end of Bruce Boudreau's time in Washington. Anaheim blew a three goal lead to lose 5-4 in overtime, but the game will be much more remembered for the overblown scene behind the bench when Alex Ovechkin was not deployed by Boudreau to grab the tying goal.

Thirty one days later Boudreau was in Anaheim, coaching his first game for the Ducks.

I've talked about it before on the blog, and probably the podcast, but it's as good a time as ever to reiterate that I don't think Boudreau gets enough credit for what he did in Washington. The lack of playoff success haunted him and of course the fans weren't flocking to Verizon Center to watch him, but having been in DC just prior to his hiringI can say from personal experience that the changes he implemented made Washington the hockey town that it is today.

Yes, Ovechkin is an enormous part of it, certainly the biggest part, but he was in Washington scoring tons of incredible goals in front of empty purple seats for more than a year under Glen Hanlon . Then, just after Thanksgiving 2007, Boudreau was hired, the team started winning and the place has been packed with red sweater'd bandwagon jumpers fans ever since.

Let's just hope that a return to play in front of old friends is as kind to Bruce (and Matheiu Perreault) as it has been to Kyle Palmieri.

Keys to the Game: The obvious thing to say here is stop Ovechkin. He currently leads the league with 30 goals and is fourth in points with 41 (two behind Ryan Getzlaf). Of course, that's easier said than done, but the first order of business in trying to slow down the other Great 8 is to put the kibosh on Washington's power play.

The Caps PP is second in the league only behind Pittsburgh with a 26.1% conversion rate, and they've scored the highest total power play goals in the league (35). A large portion of that is due to Ovechkin, and (former Mighty Duck great) Adam Oates allowing Ovechkin to be Ovechkin, in a somewhat Boudreau-ian fashion. in fact, 40% of Ovie's goals this season (12/30) have come with the man advantage and he's scored 34.3% of the team's PP goals (12/35) this year.

The Ducks currently sit 21st in the league on the penalty kill with an 80.8% success rate, but have been much better of late. In their last 13 games (manipulated stat alert) the Ducks have killed 91% of their penalties (40/44). They'll know that the plan is to get the puck to Ovie for the one timer, the question is whether they can stop it or not.

What Can We Learn From this Game: Back in October, we saw Randy Carlyle with money on the board against the Ducks for the first time, get a classic Carlyle performance out of the Leafs. Surely, Boudreau also kept some kind of secret notebook of his former charges' weaknesses that he's had saved up just for this special occasion.

Fearless Prediction: The words "Fat F**k" will not be referenced on any of the TV/radio broadcasts, certainly not TWICE! That's why you come here.

Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.

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