Dale Hunter debuts as Washington Capitals head coach Tuesday

Dale Hunter leads the Capitals through his first practice on Monday. He'll be behind the bench at Verizon Center on Tuesday. (Photo: Alex Parker/WJLA)

The first Dale Hunter era in Washington began on Oct. 8, 1987 at the old Boston Garden.

The second one begins Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

On that October night 24 years ago, Hunter recorded an assist in a 4-3 loss to the Bruins. He also went to the penalty box for the first time as a Capital, en route to becoming the franchise leader in penalty minutes.

His second debut with the team will come when the Capitals face off with the St. Louis Blues tonight.

Hunter will be behind the bench for the first time since Bruce Boudreau was fired on Monday morning, becoming the 15th coach in franchise history. His task is simple, yet complex - turn around a struggling team with Stanley Cup aspirations that has lost 10 of their last 15 games.

'I've been cheering for the Caps since I left here," Hunter, who captained the Capitals from 1994 to 1999, said Monday. "We're going to be a hard team to play against."

Of late, though, the Capitals have scuffled, most recently in a 5-1 drubbing in Buffalo that ultimately led to Boudreau's dismissal. Since starting 7-0-0 in October, Washington has given up the second most goals per game in the NHL.

General Manager George McPhee says he hopes his players will start responding to a new voice in the locker room.

"We had too many players that weren't playing well, and this is the solution," McPhee said. "We've got their attention now."

The charge likely starts with waking slumbering captain Alexander Ovechkin, who has scored just three goals in the entire month of November.

“We just have to win games. It's as simple as that," Ovechkin says.

St. Louis, who comes in sitting in the middle of the Central Division pack, has won three straight games and have gone 6-1-2 since firing their own head coach, Davis Payne, on Nov. 6.

The Blues, who are now coached by Ken Hitchcock, own the NHL's stingiest defense, giving up only two goals per game. Goaltender Brian Elliott has been in net for five of the Blues last six wins, giving up only four goals in the process.

However, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a familiar name to Capitals fans, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, will start in goal for St. Louis on Tuesday.

"He's feeling it right now. I don't like to talk," Hitchcock said of his streaking goalie. "It's like a pitcher that's throwing well. I don't like to talk about it."

Faceoff at Verizon Center is set for 7 p.m.