The Capitals look to set a franchise record for home wins in a season with a win tonight over the Arizona Coyotes. Prior to the game, the team held an optional skate at Kettler. Puck drop tonight from Verizon Center is at 7 PM.
— Craig Laughlin (@Laughlin18) March 25, 2017
The optional skate was very sparsely attended, with only four players out on the ice. Those players were the projected scratches for tonight: Paul Carey, Taylor Chorney, and Nate Schmidt as well as Philipp Grubauer. Even though Braden Holtby wasn’t on the ice this morning, head coach Barry Trotz confirmed he will get the nod in net tonight.
“Yes he’s starting, why did you ask me that?”, Trotz joked as he met with the media after the skate.
With the Capitals in need of points to get the number one seed in the playoffs and home ice advantage, Trotz stressed the importance of the road ahead.
“I think in the playoffs (having home ice) gives you an advantage. If you get into a game seven, I think the home ice is probably a little bit bigger advantage than the first six games,” Trotz said.
Trotz could be right. In his era since he coached the Caps in 2014-15, the Caps are 1-1 in Game 7’s. The win came at home against the Islanders in the first round and the loss came the following round to their neighbors, the Rangers, in Manhattan. The Capitals didn’t have any game sevens last year but with the competitiveness of the NHL playoff format, don’t be surprised if there is one in the first or second round.
Here’s what the lines are projected to look like tonight.
SCENES FROM KETTLER
— Debbie Pierce (@HokieGirl4Ever) March 25, 2017
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
The Coyotes are second to last in the league at 27-38-9 (63 points). Even though the Caps are 41 points higher, this is an opponent they shouldn’t take lightly. Mike Smith (18-23-8) gets the start in goal.
“Any time you play a team from the west, you really don’t know them. They got a lot of young guys,” said Trotz. “Those young guys have produced. Arizona has the second most production of rookies in the league, they’re very fast, their skilled, and their high draft choices are very skilled and very quick. That makes them dangerous. If you’re not ready for them, they’re going to hand you a loss.”
Here are their projected lines for tonight.
METROPOLITAN DIVISION STANDINGS
The Penguins fell to the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout in Pittsburgh. Despite the Pens gaining a point, the Caps still lead the Metropolitan Division as well as the league. Pittsburgh plays Philadelphia tomorrow. The Blue Jackets defeated the Flyers 1-0 this afternoon and now have 103 points. The Blackhawks (102 points) play the Panthers tonight.
- Tonight is the first of meetings between the Capitals and Coyotes this season.
- The Capitals were 1-1-0 last season against the Coyotes.
- These teams will meet again in six days at Arizona (March 31).
- Karl Alzner is two assists shy of 100 in his NHL career.
- Nicklas Backstrom is two goals shy of passing Bobby Carpenter (188) for eighth place on all-time franchise-goals list.
- The Capitals are 4-0-1 in their last five games, an NHL best. (Tarik El-Bashir)
- The Coyotes are 1-3-1 in their last five games (29th). (Tarik El-Bashir)
- The Capitals have posted a 30-6-2 record at home this season, tying the franchise record for home wins in season (1985-86, 2009-10: 30).
- Braden Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts (8) this season, ranks second in goals-against average (2.03) and wins (38) and fifth in save percentage (.926).
- Alex Ovechkin has scored 29 goals this season and sits one goal shy of reaching the 30-goal plateau for the 12th consecutive season.
- Nicklas Backstrom recorded three points (one goal, two assists) on Tuesday against Calgary and he has earned 10 points in his last five games (one goal, nine assists).
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 25, 2017
By Michael Marzzacco