Beware of Capital pain

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- The potential for a public spanking is very real - so real that the game has been upgraded to an orange alert on Edmonton's homeland security scale - but the Oilers are still kind of excited to be testing their mettle against the most electrifying team in hockey.

Yes, they could be in for some rather messy Capital punishment when the puck drops and they're suddenly face to face with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nick Backstrom, Mike Green and the strong supporting cast of a Cup contender that's lost only three home games all season, but then again, maybe not.

NEED AT LEAST 100%

They won't know until they try, and since they all know what's going to happen to them if they bring anything less than 100% effort, try they will.

"I think it's exciting," said Sam Gagner. "We've played a lot of home games recently and to get a chance to face these guys is definitely exciting.

"They've been playing well as of late and they have a lot of skill on their team. For us, we need to focus on what we need to do to be successful."

Or else.

"We've been caught at times this year playing up or down to the other team's level," said Gagner. "We need to establish our own level of play. Hopefully if we can do that we can come out with a win."

Edmonton didn't fare all that well against the best in the west, San Jose. About the only thing that went their way is that Zack Stortini doesn't have to skate in circles for the rest of his life because one leg points the wrong way.

In fact, they barely squeaked by the worst in the west, edging St. Louis 2-1 Sunday in what can hardly be described as a clinic.

So the Capitals present a sobering challenge.

"It should be a fun game," said Oilers centre Kyle Brodziak. "We don't get to see these guys that often. All we see of Ovechkin are the highlights on TV every night. Hopefully we'll do a good job against him. We're looking forward to it."

Is Washington's arsenal a little intimidating for a struggling team that hasn't shown much offence of its own lately?

"Not intimidating," said Brodziak. "There's guys like that on almost every team that you really have to key on. Obviously he's one of the best - I don't know how many goals he's scored in the last couple of years. We just have to make sure we don't give him too many high quality opportunities. Players like that are going to get their opportunities, we just have to limit the good ones."

EPIC BATTLE LAST SEASON

The Oilers very nearly pulled an upset last season, taking Washington 12 rounds deep in a shootout before losing 5-4. Head coach Craig MacTavish is hoping they can be just a little bit better this time.

"They're as good a team as there is in the east, and they're coming off a couple of losses," said MacTavish. "We know what the atmosphere will be like in that building. We had a great game in there last year and we're hoping we can duplicate that."

Because the last thing they need is to start the trip by getting destroyed, then having to jet into Minnesota and Colorado for back-to-back games.

"This is a huge trip for us," said Brodziak. "After Washington are two important divisional games. This is the time to start gaining ground and hopefully put ourselves in a better position."

"These are all really big games for us," added Gagner. "We really need to gain ground on the teams in front of us, especially Minnesota and Colorado."

WHO TO WATCH

DWAYNE ROLOSON, EDM

Had a wild night the last time the Oilers visited Washington, stopping 11 of 12 in a marathon shootout before losing to Olaf Kolzig.

ALEX OVECHKIN, WASH

Big and strong and talented, he's going to be a handful for Edmonton, and he's going to have plenty of high-quality help on the power play.

COMING IN

OILERS (20-18-3) are coming off a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.

CAPITALS (27-13-3) are coming off a 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

GAME NOTES

Jason Strudwick is dealing with a wrist injury and is questionable for tonight. "If he was healthy, I would have played him Sunday night over (Steve) MacIntyre," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "You want a little bit more reliability, a little more playmaking ability." ... Shawn Horcoff, who's now gone seven games without a goal, had two tallies and an assist the last time Edmonton played Washington ... Fernando Pisani is out of his cast and can begin skating shortly ... The Caps are 7-3 in their last 10, 18-2-1 at home and have the sixth-ranked PP in the NHL.

HURT PARADE

EDMONTON: RW Fernando Pisani (broken ankle); RW Ales Hemsky (concussion); RW Robert Nilsson (concussion); D/F Jason Strudwick (wrist).

WASHINGTON: Brian Pothier (concussion); John Erskine (concussion); Tom Poti (groin); Sergei Fedorov (questionable - ankle); Boyd Gordon (questionable - back).


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