ARLINGTON, Va. -- His team just about unbeatable so far in 2010, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he'd like to have the odds a little more in his favor.
"It'd be better to play Detroit when they had 10 guys out," joked Boudreau after his team's practice concluded on Monday. "They are going to be a good test for us."
Tuesday's game against the injury-blighted Red Wings is just one segment of what could be the Capitals' most challenging week of the regular season. It began with a 5-3 victory over rival Philadelphia on Sunday and continues with games against Detroit, Pittsburgh (Thursday) -- the last two Stanley Cup champs -- and Phoenix (Saturday).
If the nearly 1,000 people gathered to watch practice here Monday were polled, they would likely rank a victory over the rival Penguins as the must-win game of the week. It will be the first time the teams have played since the Pens knocked the Caps out of the last postseason.
"We know what they did last year," Caps forward Brooks Laich said. "Nobody is happy with it, obviously. It's just another regular season game. It's going to be heated and there will be interest, but it's not any different than playing Philly or the Rangers."
If that's the case, expect plenty of scoring. The Caps (30-12-6) have netted fewer than four goals only once since Jan. 1 and enter Tuesday's game at Verizon Center averaging 5.3 goals over the last seven games, winning all but one of those contests.
"When you have a team and the offensive punch like we have, it makes it fun to play goalie," said Caps netminder Jose Theodore. "Even if you are down 2-1 or 3-1, you know you have a chance if you shut them down the last couple periods. The game is never lost."
It's a sore subject for some.
"It's defense, yeah, yeah," Green said. "Look at our guys' stats. It doesn't matter. If we give up so many goals, our guys should be (poor) in plus-minus. But we aren't. Each team lets two or three goals in with penalties and what not. Whatever. We are taught to play aggressively. That's how we win games."
Washington does have four players -- Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Schultz, Green and Nicklas Backstrom -- among the top 10 in the league in plus-minus with Ovechkin leading the way with a plus-28.
Victories over all four of the teams the Caps play this week -- all of which have legitimate playoff aspirations -- could damper those critiques.