The Washington Capitals took a brief road trip through the Central Division last week. Even though the end of the trip did not give them the result they hoped for, they still went 2-1 on the trip. The road trip was a success, even though there were some costly mistakes.
With the Capitals returning home, the road ahead does not get any easier for the club. The Capitals next three games are against teams that are fighting for playoff positioning (LA, NYI, NJ). The good news for the Capitals is that the next 5 out of 6 games they play are at home.
Home cooking should serve the Capitals well right before the NHL Trade Deadline. In two weeks, the Capitals will have to make some tough lineup decisions moving forward as they try to make a long postseason run.
On Tuesday night, the Capitals will return home for 1 game as they face off against the Western Conference powerhouse Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have won 2 Stanley Cups in the last 4 years.
The Capitals and Kings played each other twice in 2014-15, and both teams each captured a victory at their respective home rinks. Last year in DC, the Capitals cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Kings.
And in 2014, Evgeny Kuznetsov would net his first NHL goal in dramatic fashion against the Kings.
This is the first of two meetings between the Capitals and Kings this season. They will not see each other again until March 9 when the Capitals make their yearly trip out to California.
SIZING UP THE OPPONENT: LOS ANGELES KINGS
The Kings are in the middle of a lengthy 7-game road trip. They have gone 2-2 on their road trip so far, and they have suffered some injuries along the way. All Star Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was injured at the beginning of the trip in Boston, and he has missed the remaining games since then.
There is a good chance that the Capitals will not have to face Quick as he is still recovering from his injury. The Kings have also lost forward Marian Gaborik on this road trip, and he has been placed on injured reserve.
The Kings have taken some blows to their roster, yet they keep plugging along. They have shown a ton of resiliency on this road trip. Led by forwards Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli, and with Drew Doughty on the backend, this Kings team is still dangerous. They are not the fastest team, but they are a very physical team.
The Kings are coming off a 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday afternoon. They are still the leaders of the Pacific Division, as they have a 6-point lead over 2nd place San Jose. The Kings have slipped a little bit recently, as they have only won 4 out of their last 10 games.
WAVE TO THE GOOD GUYS: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
After a disappointing ending to their short Central road swing, the Capitals will look to get back on track for their next set of home games. The Capitals played a 20-minute effort against Dallas, but they had a horrific 2nd period. The hole was too big for the Capitals to climb out of, but they did make a nice late rally.
The Dallas game displayed what the “bad” Capitals can look like, and what the “good” Capitals can look like. When the Capitals played awful, the goals against them came in bunches. When the Capitals were engaged and playing physical, the goals they scored came in bunches.
Barry Trotz is keeping a tight lip with the Capitals lineup for the upcoming games. It sounds like Brooks Orpik is close, and Capitals fans could see him play against the Kings. It also sounds like Philipp Grubauer could get a game this week. Could he get into the net against the Kings and give Holtby the night off?
It will be fun to see former Kings Justin Williams and Mike Richards square off against their former teammates. Both current Capitals were key in the Kings Stanley Cup runs. Do Richards or Williams have a goal in store for this game?
Tuesday February 16, 2016 – CSN-DC, FS-W, SNO, SNP – 7 PM ET
Capitals – Justin Williams: The former Los Angeles King had a goal against Dallas on Saturday night. He has 4 points in his last 5 games. Williams has already tied his goal total from last year (18), and he is only 3 points shy from matching last year’s point total. Williams is a 3-time Stanley Cup winner and has brought a wealth of leadership to the Capitals locker room. The Capitals hope that he can bring some of the playoff magic to DC like he brought to LA a few years ago during their Cup runs.
Kings – Anze Kopitar: Kopitar is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. The big Slovenian centre was the 2005 1st round pick of the Los Angeles Kings. He recently signed an 8-year extension worth $80 million. Kopitar is the Kings top point producing forward. He has 16 goals and 50 points in 55 games this year. He does not play a fast game, but he plays a smart careful game. Kopitar is strong on the puck and performs well at both ends of the rink, as he is a former Selke Trophy finalist.
By George Foussekis