The Washington Capitals visit the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night for the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Kings skated away with a 5-2 victory at Capital One Arena the last time these two teams met back on November 30.
The Capitals continue their three-game California road trip in Los Angeles. They opened their road trip being whitewashed by the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 at Honda Center on Tuesday night. The Capitals have lost six straight contests and five straight in regulation in the Golden State. The last time Washington came out victorious in sunny California was a 2-1 shootout victory in Anaheim in 2016 and they also have not won in regulation in California since a 5-3 victory at the Duck Pond in 2015.
Washington has not won a game at Staples Center since December 14, 2005 and are 0-5-2 in Los Angeles since then. The Capitals have scored more than two goals in Los Angeles only once in that span.
The Capitals enter Thursday’s game with a slim one-point lead over Pittsburgh and two-point lead over Philadelphia for top spot in the Metropolitan Division despite winning four of their last six contests. The two teams clash tonight and the Capitals will wake up in the second or third spot in the division unless the Flyers win in regulation. The Flyers and Capitals would be even in points but Washington owns a game in hand on Philadelphia, who play the Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden.
Alex Ovechkin sits at 598 career goals and needs two more to become the 20th player in NHL history to score 600 goals in his career. Ovechkin has scored eight goals and 14 points in his past 12 games and has five goals and eight points in 13 career games against Los Angeles.
Philipp Grubauer will likely start for the Capitals against Los Angeles. He is 2-1-0 in his career against the Kings and his .960 save percentage is the highest save percentage he has against any opponent that he has faced in his NHL career while his 1.34 goals-against average versus the Kings marks his second-lowest against a single franchise (1.30 GAA against Buffalo). Grubauer has won his past four starts and has an 8-7-3 record with a 2.36 goals against average and a .922 save percentage on the season.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have missed the playoffs two out of the past three seasons since winning their second Stanley Cup in three seasons in 2014. This season, they occupy the final wild-card spot with 77 points, which is tied with the Colorado Avalanche. The Kings started the year 11-2-0 but have been inconsistent since then going 25-23-5. Though the Kings may have turned a corner after sweeping a home and home with the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights last week.
The Kings were last in action on Saturday, a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center. They scored three unanswered goals in the middle frame and had a 3-1 lead after two periods. Chicago roared out with four goals in the final 9:12 of the game to win. The win was Chicago’s first in seven games.
Los Angeles is in the midst of a season-long five game homestand and is 1-1-0 in the first two games. Los Angeles thumped the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first game of the homestand by a 5-2 count. The St. Louis Blues come to town on Saturday and the Vancouver Canucks follow on Monday to conclude the homestand.
Anze Kopitar has had an excellent bounce-back campaign after scoring 12 goals and a career-low 52 points in a non-lockout season last year. Kopitar already has 27 goals and 71 points in 66 games this season. He also has a +17 rating. Kopitar leads the next leading scorer on the Kings, forward Dustin Brown, by 26 points.
The Kings were busy at the trade deadline, acquiring defenseman Dion Phaneuf from the Ottawa Senators. He has shined offensively in L.A., notching three goals and six points in 10 games. They also added Nate Thompson as part of that trade and forward Tobias Reider from Arizona.
Jeff Carter returned 11 games ago from a lacerated ankle tendon that kept him out since October 18. He had a three-game goal streak end against Chicago on Saturday and has three goals and six points in 11 games this season. He led Los Angeles with 32 goals and 66 points in 82 games last season.
Jonathan Quick will likely start against the Capitals. He is 25-24-2 this season with a .921 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average. In his career against Washington, he is 8-2-0 with a .916 save percentage and a 2.36 goals against average.
–Evgeny Kuznetsov has four goals, including two in the first meeting against the Kings on November 30, and nine points in nine career games against Los Angeles
–Nicklas Backstrom will play his 800th career game against the Kings
-The Capitals are 18-11-4 against team’s in playoff position, good for a .606 points percentage and a 99-point pace over a full 82-game season. That’s also the third-highest in the Eastern Conference (Tampa Bay: 21-11-1, .652 points percentage; Boston Bruins: 16-8-6, .633 points percentage).
A Look Back in Time
The last time the Kings came to town was in early February for Washington’s annual Super Bowl Sunday matinee. The Capitals got goals from five different scorers – Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Brett Connolly, T.J. Oshie, and former-King Justin Williams – en route to a 5-0 victory over Los Angeles. Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves for his third shutout of the season to lead the Capitals to victory. The win was Washington’s ninth straight home victory.
By Harrison Brown