(SportsNetwork.com) - Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will shoot for
a win in their home opener on Thursday when they welcome the Calgary Flames to
the Verizon Center.
The Capitals are coming off a loss in their season opener in Chicago, as the
Blackhawks followed up their Stanley Cup championship banner raising ceremony
with Tuesday's 6-4 victory at the United Center.
Washington took a 4-3 lead after Mikhail Grabovski scored his second and third
goals of the game early in the third period, but the defending champs tallied
three unanswered scores to earn the victory,
Grabovski, who was signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, notched a hat
trick and an assist in his Capitals debut. Ovechkin added a goal and an assist
in the loss, while Washington goaltender Braden Holtby was tagged for five
goals on 34 shots.
"Our turnovers gave them momentum and gave them some life," Capitals head
coach Adam Oates said. "They've got a good hockey team. It's hard to play that
Washington will play six of its next seven games on home ice. The Caps are set
to visit Dallas on Saturday before returning to D.C. for a five-game
After losing a couple of franchise players in the past calendar year, the
Flames, who are beginning their regular season on Thursday, enter the 2013-14
campaign stuck in rebuilding mode. Two particular departures signaled the
change, as the club traded away all-time franchise great Jarome Iginla at last
year's trade deadline and longtime starting goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff
officially announced his retirement after the 2013 campaign.
Bob Hartley is back behind the bench for the Flames, as takes on the
unenviable task of molding this unimpressive mix of prospects and veterans
into something that resembles a legitimate NHL team.
With Iginla gone the Flames lack a go-to offensive weapon to rely on, meaning
winger Mike Cammalleri will be saddled with that role by default.
Unfortunately, Cammalleri is dealing with a hand injury at the moment and is
In the absence of a true offensive weapon, Calgary is hoping left winger Sven
Baertschi can take a big leap forward in 2013-14. The 13th overall pick of the
2011 NHL Entry Draft played in 20 games for the Flames in 2013 and although he
only recorded three goals and seven assists, nine of his 10 points came over
the last seven games of the season.
If Baertschi is able to make significant strides in 2013-14, this massive
rebuilding project would suddenly look a little easier to pull off.
When Kiprusoff officially announced his retirement earlier this month it made
Karri Ramo the club's de facto No. 1 goaltender and he is expected to get the
start over backup Joey MacDonald in Thursday's opener.
Ramo spent the last four seasons with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey
League, but the 27-year-old does have NHL experience on his resume. The
Finnish backstop saw action in 48 games over the course of three seasons with
the Tampa Bay Lightning, but last suited up in an NHL game in 2009.
Although Ramo became an All-Star while playing in Russia he still has a great
deal to prove at the NHL level. He was just 11-21-0 with a lofty 3.35 goals
against average during his time with the Lightning.
Teams from opposing conferences did not face each other during the lockout-
shortened season of 2013, so this is the first meeting between the Flames and
Caps since Washington notched a 3-1 home win on Jan. 3, 2012.
All told, Washington has won two straight and four of its last six meetings
against the Flames. Ovechkin has six goals and six assists in six career games
The Sports Network