Photo: Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribue
The Capitals begin their season-long five-game, eight night road trip in Minnesota. The Capitals will take on the Wild for the second and final time this season on Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. eastern.
The Capitals (49-17-8, 106 points) are riding high ever since head coach Barry Trotz deemed their last road game against the Lightning a “must win”. After that night saw Washington clinch a playoff berth for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons and a T.J. Oshie hat trick, the Caps returned home and won their next three. Washington enters tonight having won four in a row, and are riding a six game point streak.
Braden Holtby, the likely starter in goal tonight, earned his 39th win of the season and now sits one win away of becoming the third goaltender in the history of the NHL to record three consecutive 40-win seasons. He would join the elite company of Martin Brodeur (2005-08) and Evgeni Nabokov (2007-10) if he gets the job done tonight.
ROAD TO THE PLAYOFFS
The Capitals four game winning streak has given them a little room in a tight Metropolitan Division. Right now the Caps are three points ahead of the Blue Jackets and Penguins. The Penguins are coming off a 6-2 loss to the Flyers. Their next game is tomorrow when they host the Blackhawks, a team that is fighting with those three Metro powerhouses for the top spot in the NHL. The Blue Jackets are coming off a 1-0 win Saturday over the Flyers and tonight will host the Sabres.
The Wild (44-24-7, 95 points) came into their game against the Caps two weeks ago also in the thick of things for the top spot in the league. Having also fallen to the Blackhawks before that game in Washington, the Wild have lost nine of their last 10 and are now eight points behind Chicago for the top spot in the Central Division entering tonight’s contest.
Eric Staal leads the Wild in goals with 26. Mikael Granlund leads Minnesota in points (66) and assists (41). Devan Dubnyk is likely to get the start in goal for the Wild. He carries a 37-19-4 record with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. He stopped 36 of 40 shots in the game against Washington two weeks ago. The Wild are entering tonight’s contest coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon in Detroit.
That six-point streak the Capitals are on began when these same two teams met at Verizon Center two weeks ago, ending Washington’s four-game losing skid. The Capitals won that game 4-2.
- Washington has won four consecutive games against Minnesota and two straight games at Xcel Energy Center.
- Alex Ovechkin has recorded 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 11 career games against the Wild, including a hat trick last season in their meeting in Minnesota.
- Nicklas Backstrom has earned 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 11 career games against Minnesota and has recorded nine assists in his last four games against the Wild.
- Braden Holtby is 6-2-0 in his career against Minnesota with one shutout, a 2.24 goals=against average and a .923 save percentage. Holtby has won four consecutive games against the Wild.
By Michael Marzzacco