BY MELISSA ZIELINSKI
The Washington Capitals will be skating in unfamiliar territory over the next seven days.
January started off smoothly with a rare meeting against the Calgary Flames, a team they see usually just once per season on Jan. 3 with a 3-1 victory. The Caps will then head to the West Coast for matchups with the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings.
Before Tuesday’s meeting, Calgary, San Jose and L.A. had exchanged pleasantries with Washington only 15 times in the last five seasons (2006-07 to 2010-11). Despite sealing their fourth-straight win as they open 2012, the Caps are only 32-40-13-0 all-time when facing the Flames. San Jose and L.A. have also proved tough opponents with the Caps displaying a 1-9 record against the Sharks and the Kings since 2006-07.
Caps’ defenseman Karl Alzner believes simplicity and research are the answers when it comes to preparing for the team’s upcoming trip.
“I think you have to do your best at researching the team and going out there and playing simple – road teams have to be extremely simple,” Alzner said. “You don’t have to go out there and impress the fans or drop five goals or anything like that.”
Fellow defenseman John Carlson also added that even though the teams they’ll face are unfamiliar, they don’t hype up the trip by over preparing. He also said that the team depends on coaches and staff who have “seen these teams just as much as teams in their own division.”
Washington’s flight to California may also be a bit more comfortable after stringing together four victories in a row, including a four-goal third period on New Year’s Eve against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Is this winning streak that much-anticipated spark the Caps were hoping for heading into the second stretch of the season?
“Right now we’re on a bit of an upswing, but we have to make sure we keep that momentum going,” Alzner said.
Both blueliners cautioned that “they can’t be satisfied,” with the recent success that closed out the calendar year and has now opened the next.
“It’s just three games,” said Carlson. “You have to have constant work ethic the rest of the year.”
“We’re taking a few steps in the right direction, but until we start winning six games in a row, seven games in a row, I don’t think we can be satisfied,” Alzner said.
The Capitals received another confidence booster Tuesday as defenseman Mike Green reintroduced himself to his team in a limited role vs. Calgary. Green was part of Washington’s initial 7-0 run to start the season, but hasn’t seen any playing time since Nov. 11. The team can now say they’re 1-0 with him back in the lineup.
As the Caps prepare to take on Western Conference foes they know a challenge lies ahead. Washington’s recent success mixed with a steady work ethic (and a healthy Mike Green) could mean good things to come for the red, white and blue.