Caps @ Ducks Preview: "Special" Teams

So Cal teams are used to traffic. - Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

"'Cause you know some times words have two meanings" -Robert Plant

It seemed like we were done talking about the trade deadline, but now Dustin Penner comes in for his first game as a Capital and it could even be Stephane Robidas' first game as a Duck. In his press availability yesterday, Boudreau said "I think [Robidas] is available to play" but he doesn't know if he wants to break up the defense that held Los Angeles to zero shots in the last ten minutes of a game, while defending a one goal lead. Whether Robidas is in or not we'll likely see the best Penner has to offer, especially considering some of the comments about his work ethic that have followed him out of town. According to dailyfaceoff.com Penner has slotted in on the fourth line with Casey Wellman and Tom Wilson since joining the Capitals.

Last time the Teams Met: The Ducks polished off their ninth win in a row going into the Christmas break in Bruce Boudreau's return to Verizon Center. This was at the height of the Ducks' suck in the first period and take over the game after that phase. They went behind 2-0 and ended up winning by a score of 3-2 a Hampus Lindholm goal with 6:36 remaining in the third.

Keys to the Game: The power plays are a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE mismatch in this game. Washington comes in with the second best extra man unit in the league at 23.7% while the Ducks are at 20th and feeling much lower with only one fluke PPG since the Olympics. Alex Ovechkin has scored 19 of the team's 59 goals (32.2%). When, not if, they give him the shot on the PP it's probably best to let the goalie see it. The Ducks have done a lot of shot blocking recently but Jonas Hiller, Frederik Andersen and everyone in the building will know what they Caps are going for when they get the extra man, so best to let the guys who are most equipped (literally) take care of it.

Having said that, 5-on-5 is just as big a disparity going the other way. The Ducks have the second most 5-on-5 goals to the Caps' 20th place total. In fact the Ducks have scored 24.3% (38/156) of their goals this season on the PP as compared to an even 50% (59/118) for the Caps. So clearly, the Ducks' best bet is to break even on the special teams and win this game at even strength.

What Can We Learn From this Game: The last two games have been an offensive explosion and a defensive clinic, respectively. Hopefully next they combine those two for a truly dominant performance. That may be asking for a lot, considering the game before that they hit, what we hope is, rock bottom against Calgary.

Put another way, we are about to find out if the wake up call that they got from the Calgary game really meant anything, or if it was just a fleeting lesson that will be washed away by the sunshine and rainbows of back-to-back wins against actual playoff teams. If the latter is true, then the next game in San Jose could spell disaster for the Ducks' hope/need of consecutive Pacific Division titles.

Fearless Prediction: The Ducks will allow zero shots on the power play the entire game.... that is, their own power play. At least it's a start.

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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