The Washington Capitals will host the Anaheim Ducks in the first of two meetings this season on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Last year, the Capitals and Ducks split the season series with the home team prevailing in each game. The two teams were the winners of their respective divisions last season but are scrambling for position right now. The contest will be shown on NBC Sports Washington at 8:00 PM.
The Ducks entered this season having won their fifth consecutive Pacific Division crown. Their roster was largely intact, but the Ducks have been plagued by injuries this season. They sit tied for fourth in the Western Conference wild-card race with the Calgary Flames and are two points out of the first wild card spot that is currently occupied by the Minnesota Wild.
The Ducks just lost winger Corey Perry to a lower-body injury that has him out week-to-week. Forwards Nick Ritchie, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves, and defenseman Hampus Lindholm all accompany Perry on the Ducks’ injured list. Anaheim also just got their first line center, Ryan Getzlaf, back after he missed a month and a half with a bone fracture in his face. Perry currently leads Anaheim with 6 goals and 22 points.
Because Getzlaf and Kesler are struggling to stay healthy, the Ducks recently acquired center Adam Henrique and winger Joseph Blandisi from the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Sami Vatanen. In seven games since the trade on November 30, Henrique has three goals and six points.
The Ducks will play the second game of a six-game road trip in Washington on Saturday night. They opened the trip with a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Arena last night. After playing in Washington, the Ducks move on to play New Jersey, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Ducks have lost 3 of their past five visits to Capital One Arena.
John Gibson will mind the net for the Ducks. He is 10-10-3 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.83 goals against average. Lifetime against Washington, he is 0-3-1 with an .888 save percentage and a 3.64 goals against average.
The Capitals return home after getting a 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. The Capitals are 8-2-0 in their last ten games and are 12-2-0 at home in their last 14 home games. Washington begins a four-game stretch against Western Conference, three of which are from the Pacific Division, starting against Anaheim tomorrow night.
The Capitals will be without T.J. Oshie for the sixth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. He is making progress and participated in the team’s optional skate Friday morning but he is still wearing a green no-contact jersey. Oshie hasn’t played since taking a hit to the head from Sharks center Joe Thornton in the Capitals’ 4-1 victory over San Jose last Monday. Brooks Orpik also missed practice and is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Capitals will know more about his status tomorrow.
The Capitals play their last home game before heading on the road for four straight against Dallas, Arizona, Vegas, and the New York Rangers. They enter Saturday night’s action tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for first in the division with 41 points. Columbus visits Carolina tomorrow night.
The Capitals have scored at least four goals in each of their past five home games. Jakub Vrana tallied his 10th marker of the year and Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 22nd in Washington’s 5-3 win over Boston. Alex Chiasson notched a pair in the win.
Braden Holtby will start against Anaheim after making 34 saves on 37 shots against Boston on Thursday. He is 18-7-0 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average. Lifetime against the Ducks, he is 2-1-0 with an .878 save percentage and a 3.25 goals against average.
-the Capitals are 7-6-0 in 14 games against the Western Conference this season (4-4-0 at against Pacific Division opponents), including 6-2-0 at home (3-2-0 against Pacific Division opponents)
–Nicklas Backstrom has 5 goals and 16 points in 12 career games against Anaheim
-Since 2014, the Capitals have a 32-8-7 record in December (71 points – first in the NHL in that span)
A Look Back in Time
The last time the Ducks came to town, the Capitals prevailed 6-4 despite blowing a 4-1 lead. Rookie forward Zach Sanford’s game-winning goal was the first of his career to power the Capitals to victory. T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik, and Marcus Johansson also lit the lamp for the Capitals that night. Braden Holtby made 18 saves for his 14th straight win of the season.
By Harrison Brown