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Red Wings-Capitals Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- As good as the Washington Capitals have looked to start the season, the Detroit Red Wings might be playing better.
The NHL's only unbeaten teams face off Saturday night when the Capitals take on the Red Wings at the Verizon Center.
After another earlier-than-expected exit from the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2010-11, Washington has opened this season with a franchise-record six straight victories. The Capitals have outscored their opponents 23-13 and are 4-0-0 at home for the first time.
However, even with victories over fellow perennial East powers Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia through the first two weeks of the season, the Capitals view Saturday's contest as the truest test of their worth.
"We feel it's huge test, a huge measuring stick and we're looking forward to it," coach Bruce Boudreau told the Capitals' official website. "You know what (the Red Wings) are like. They're good."
Looking to open with six straight wins for the first time since 1972-73, Detroit (5-0-0) has allowed just seven goals overall. Johan Franzen had two power-play goals with an assist, and Valtteri Filppula added a goal with three assists in the Red Wings' 5-2 win over Columbus on Friday.
The Red Wings and Capitals have split their last four meetings, with the home team winning each contest. Detroit won 3-2 on March 16, but lost by the same score in its most recent trip to Washington on Jan. 19, 2010.
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin has five goals and three assists in six career games against the Red Wings. After he scored one goal in the first five games this season, Ovechkin finally broke out with two in Thursday's 5-2 victory at Philadelphia.
"He's not going to go through the season with just one goal," Boudreau said. "He's going to score some goals. I think he's like any other hockey player. He's more excited and he's not as frustrated. He's playing with confidence instead of lack of it, so when he's scoring he's making life easier for him."
Tomas Vokoun has made life relatively easy for the Capitals while posting a 5-0-0 record and a 1.96 goals-against average for his new team. The former Nashville and Florida netminder, however, is 0-5-1 with a 3.53 GAA against the Red Wings since last beating them Feb. 24, 2007, while with the Predators.
Jimmy Howard stopped 32 shots Friday, but backup Ty Conklin is expected to be in net for Detroit in this contest. Conklin, who made 29 saves during a 3-0 win at Colorado on Oct. 8 in his only appearance this season, is 1-2-1 with a 3.06 GAA versus Washington.
Franzen has a team-leading four goals with three assists, but has scored just once in four career games against the Capitals.
Filppula, meanwhile, has all five of his assists over the last two contests. He has a goal with five assists in five games versus Washington.
Future Hall of Fame defenseman and seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom will play his 1,500th career game for Detroit on Saturday.
"I can't even count that high," Boudreau said. "That's very good. That's such a tremendous accomplishment, especially at the level he plays."
Lidstrom had one point in the previous four games before he recorded a goal and an assist versus Columbus.
The Red Wings are 4 for 8 on the power play in the last two games after going 0 for 16 during the first three contests.
Updated October 21, 2011