Game Preview: Into The Wild

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It was a wild thing in Smashville on Tuesday evening as the Capitals sunk the Predators 5-3.  The Capitals led the whole way and never trailed in the game, but the Predators were never out of it.

The Capitals begun their 3-game Central Division road trip with a victory inside a building that they normally do not play well in.  They played against a tough Nashville team that is desperate for points.  With their first test out of their way, they will travel to frigid Minnesota to try and tame the Wild.  The Wild are in the same position as the Predators are, as they are also trying to get points inside the tough Central Division.

SERIES FLASHBACK
The Capitals and Wild faced each other twice last season, and both clubs took victories on the other club’s home ice.  The last time the Capitals visited Minnesota, the Capitals got 2 quick goals from Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.  Their goals happened 39 seconds apart.

SERIES MATCHUP
This is the first of two meetings between the Capitals and Wild this year.  The Wild make their only trip to Washington in a couple of weeks on February 26.

SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: MINNESOTA WILD
The Wild are sinking toward the bottom of the Central Division.  They do not score a lot of goals, but they do not give up a lot of goals.  Since the beginning of 2016, they only have 3 wins in 17 games.

The top stars have underperformed for the Wild.  Zach Parise is the Wild’s goal scoring leader with only 17 goals in 44 games.  Mikko Koivu leads the Wild’s point race with 36 points in 53 games.

On the Wild blueline, they actually have a good amount of talent here.  Ryan Suter is the veteran of this group and leads the Wild in icetime every night.  Playing 30+ minutes a night for Suter has become a daily routine.  When one watches a Wild game, it appears that Suter never leaves the ice.  The Wild defensive core recently suffered a huge blow as Jonas Brodin suffered a broken foot on February 4.  He will miss 3-6 weeks of action.  Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon are just a few of the young talented defensemen the Wild have to round out this group.

Devan Dubnyk is the goaltender of the future for the Minnesota Wild.  He signed a nice 6-year extension with the Wild during the summer after he helped propel them into the playoffs last season.

WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS

“I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.”  The Capitals just keep winning and doing their thing on the ice.

The Capitals have won 4 straight games, even though their powerplay has struggled during this stretch.  Against the Predators, the Capitals third line really dominated play.  The trio of Jason Chimera-Marcus Johansson-Tom Wilson combined for 3 goals and 6 points in the game.

It was good to see Marcus Johansson playing so energized after coming off his upper-body injury.  He has caught many people by surprise because he has actually shown that he has the ability to play the centre position.  This gives the Capitals added depth and flexibility moving forward at that position.  It makes Jay Beagle’s absence less of a burden on the club.

Mike Richards took a maintenance day on Wednesday.  Brooks Orpik continues to skate with the team, so his return to game action should happen within the next week.

After the Capitals visit Minnesota, they will finish their Central road swing in Dallas on Saturday night.  Once they finish their road trip, they have one game in DC on Tuesday as they get a visit from the Los Angeles Kings.  The Capitals get to see their fair share of the top Western Conference teams this week.

STANDINGS UPDATE

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NETWORK INFORMATION
Thursday, February 11, 2016 – CSN-DC+, FS-N; 8 PM ET

PROJECTED LINEUPS
washington-capitals-wallpaperWashington Capitals
Forwards:
Ovechkin–Backstrom–Oshie
Burakovsky–Kuznetsov–Williams
Chimera–Johansson–Wilson
Laich–Richards–Michael Latta

Defensemen:
Schmidt – Carlson
Alzner – Niskanen
Orlov – Chorney

Goaltenders:
Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

minnesota-wild_h0ckeyMinnesota Wild
Forwards:
Parise–Koivu–Coyle
Niederreiter–Granlund–Pominville
Vanek–Haula–Zucker
Carter–Stoll–Fontaine

Defensemen:
Suter–Folin
Scandella–Dumba
Prosser – Mike Reilly

Goaltenders:
Devan Dubnyk
Darcy Kuemper

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT
Capitals – Marcus Johansson: The 25-year old Swede is coming off a 3-point night against the Nashville Predators.  He is having a good season for the Capitals.  He has recorded 14 goals and 33 points in 45 games.  The 2009 1st round pick has bounced around in the lineup this year, but he has performed well in his various spots.  Johansson has recorded 7 game-winning goals for the Capitals this year, so he has scored some very clutch goals.

Wild – Mikko Koivu: The 32-year old Finland native has been with the Wild his entire career.  He was their 1st round pick back in the 2001 NHL Draft.  He has been plagued by injuries in the later stages of his career, but he is still a very productive player.  The big centre is a smooth skater who will use his long reach to his advantage.  At the international level, Koivu has played for Team Finland on multiple occasions.  The Wild Captain is an accomplished player in all levels of hockey.

By George Foussekis

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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