Capitals Continue Roadtrip in Arizona

The Washington Capitals will visit Gila River Arena for the second and final meeting with the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night. These two teams met on November 6 at Capital One Arena, with the Capitals prevailing 3-2 in overtime. The game can be seen on NBC Sports Washington Plus at 9:00 PM. 

Washington Capitals 

The Capitals will play the middle match of a three-game Western Conference road trip. They opened the trip defeating the Dallas Stars by a 4-3 final in overtime. Andre Burakovsky scored two goals in Dallas including the game-winner. That marked the first time he has scored since October 20 after missing 20 games due to hand surgery. Burakovsky also tallied an assist. Dmitry Orlov and Brett Connolly also struck for the Capitals. T.J. Oshie returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a concussion.

The Capitals have won four straight and eight of their last nine going into Friday night’s date with the desert dogs but have gone 1-3-1 in their past five visits to Arizona, with their lone win coming in overtime on November 18, 2014. The Capitals have been outscored by a combined score of 9-3 in their past two visits to Gila River Arena, including a 3-0 shutout by the Coyotes two seasons ago.

The Capitals claimed Nathan Walker off of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. The Oilers claimed him from the Capitals on December 1. In two games with the Oilers, he just registered two penalty minutes. In seven games with the Capitals, he had one goal, which came during his NHL debut.

The Capitals open a set of back-to-back games on Friday against Arizona. Following the game against the Coyotes, the team will fly to Las Vegas for their first-ever meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Capitals will be 37 games through the season after the road trip going into the NHL’s Christmas break.

The Capitals are looking to give themselves some separation in the standings. They entered Thursday just two points ahead of the New Jersey Devils, who host the New York Rangers at the Rock, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. New Jersey will have one game in hand on Washington after tonight and the Capitals will have a game in hand on Columbus. The Rangers are two points back of the Devils and Blue Jackets.

Philipp Grubauer may get the start against Arizona assuming the Capitals will use Braden Holtby in net against the Golden Knights. Grubauer enters Friday with a 2-5-1 record, .899 save percentage, and a 3.01 goals against average but has won his past two starts against the Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks, making 49 saves on 51 shots. He also came in to relieve Braden Holtby during the Capitals’ 3-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders on December 11 and played well, stopping all 13 shots that came his way. Lifetime against Arizona, he is 0-1-0 with an .889 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average.

Arizona Coyotes

Like the Capitals, the Coyotes start a set of back-to-backs. They host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. The Coyotes play the fourth match of a five-game homestand and are going into Friday’s game having lost seven in a row. They lost 11 straight games to begin the season.

They were most recently in action on Tuesday, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. They scored the first two goals of the contest but Panthers’ forward Nick Bjugstad cut the Yotes’ lead in half with 10 seconds remaining in the second period. Forward Denis Malgin and defenseman Mike Matheson scored twice in a span of 2:04 in the first 5:41 of the third period to hand the Coyotes their seventh straight loss.

Arizona is sitting at the basement of the league standings with just 19 points and a 7-24-5 record through their first 36 games of the season. The Coyotes have the league’s worst record at home at 3-11-1 and goal differential at -45.

Despite the rotten record, Arizona does have a bright spot in 19-year-old rookie Clayton Keller. He is third in rookie scoring with 12 goals and 26 points through 36 games. Only Vancouver’s Brock Boeser (18 goals and 32 points) and the New York Islanders’ Matthew Barzal (8 goals and 30 points) fare better than Keller among rookies. His 12 goals are second among rookies behind Boeser.

Over the summer, the Coyotes seemed to hold some promise, acquiring forward Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers and defenseman Nicklas Hjalmarsson from the Chicago Blackhawks. Stepan (6 goals and 20 points), Raanta (.916 save percentage and 2.82 goals against average), and Hjalmarsson (-4 +/- rating) have performed well for the Coyotes but they lack support.

Scott Wedgewood will start tonight against the Capitals. Wedgewood is 3-6-3 with a shutout, a 2.98 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 13 games played this season. Lifetime against Washington, he is 0-0-2 with a 1.90 goals against average and a .939 save percentage.

Skate Shavings:

Alex Ovechkin has 7 goals and 16 points in 15 career games against Arizona

-The Coyotes are 5-0-1 in their last six home games against the Capitals and have not lost in regulation to the Capitals since January 16, 2006

-With one more win, Barry Trotz will tie Lindy Ruff for 5th place on the all-time coaching wins list

John Carlson enters Friday night’s contest against Arizona tied third in the NHL in points by defensemen (26) and second in assists (23). Carlson has recorded at least a point in 20 out of 35 games this season (1 goal, 1 assist on 11/6 vs. Arizona)

A Look Back in Time

Jay Beagle struck in the first period sniping one short side on Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith. Coyotes’ defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored after a spin-o-rama pass from Sam Gagner into a wide open net to tie the game at one. That would be all the scoring in regulation. Capitals’ center Eric Fehr scored off of a rebound from Brooks Orpik‘s point shot past Mike Smith to give the Capitals a 3-2 win in overtime on November 18, 2014. Braden Holtby made 23 saves in the win and Tom Wilson had six hits.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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