Photo: Wager Web
The Washington Capitals collide with the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena for the first of two meetings in D.C. in a span of 18 days and for the first time this season. The Capitals beat the Red Wings 4-3 in overtime on October 20 at Little Caesars Arena, fell to Detroit 5-4 in overtime on February 11 at home, and defeated them 1-0 on March 22 in Motown to finish the season set with the Red Wings 2-0-1 for a second consecutive season. The puck will drop at 4 PM from Capital One Arena and will be televised on NBC Sports Washington.
Detroit comes into Friday’s game on a 9-2-0 tear in their last 11 games after starting the season 1-7-2. The team is coming off of a 3-2 home win against the Boston Bruins on Friday night, its second consecutive win. The Red Wings are climbing the standings but enter the game against the Capitals tied with the New York Islanders for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and are four points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final wild-card spot in the conference.
The Red Wings go to Capital One Arena for just a single games worth of a road trip. Despite going 4-5-1 on the road this season, Detroit has won four of their past five road games. They also start the second of a back-to-back. After visiting the Capitals, Detroit heads right back home to host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
After leading the Red Wings with 47 assists and 63 points a season ago, forward Dylan Larkin, an NHL All-Star from last season, leads the team with 19 goals and second with eight goals, one behind forward Andreas Athanasiou for the team lead. Forward Gustav Nyquist leads the team with 14 assists and second with 16 points.
Despite being on the outside looking in, the Red Wings boast the eighth-best penalty killing unit in the league, which clicks at a rate of 81.8%. Detroit also averages the third-most shots against per game in the NHL coming Friday’s tilt with the Capitals, averaging 35.5 a night, and the fifth-least shots per game at 28.7. Only the Anaheim Ducks (27.1), New York Islanders (27.9), Los Angeles Kings (28.2), and Vancouver Canucks (28.6) take fewer shots per game than the Red Wings do.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who is 7-6-2 with a save percentage of .924 and a goals-against average of 2.60 this season and 4-1-0 with a save percentage of .947 and a GAA of 1.75 in his past five starts, will likely start against the Capitals. Lifetime against Washington, the 34-year old netminder is 4-3-3 with a save percentage of .900 and a goals-against average of 2.82.
The Capitals also come into Friday’s game on a hot streak, winning three in a row and four of their past five games. After going 3-1-0 on a four-game road trip, the Capitals earned a big two points in a 4-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. Washington enters Friday’s game against Detroit third in the Metropolitan Division with 25 points, one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers for first place in the division. The Capitals end a set of back-to-backs at the Rangers on Saturday at 2 PM Eastern.
Forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie, who are each likely suffering concussions, missed practice again on Thursday and each will likely miss a fourth consecutive game after getting hit in the head in the Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on November 14. Since the Capitals play a set of back-to-backs and are off on Sunday before facing the New York Islanders on Monday night, Oshie, 31, and Kuznetsov, 26, will likely miss the Capitals’ next three games. The team is 3-0-0 in their absence.
The team enters Friday’s game with the third-best power play in the league, which clicks at a rate of 29.8%. The Capitals were 1-for-3 on the power play against the Blackhawks on Wednesday and have scored a power-play goal in three consecutive games, going 3-for-8 (37.5% efficiency) in that span. Center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson each lead the team with 12 power-play points while Kuznetsov and captain Alex Ovechkin are right behind them with 11. Ovechkin leads the team with seven goals on the man advantage and Kuznetsov is right behind him with six.
Since returning from a 16-game suspension, forward Tom Wilson has been an offensive force for the Capitals while playing on the top line with Ovechkin. Backstrom, who turns 31 on Friday, played with them the past two games. Center Lars Eller played the first game without Kuznetsov in that spot. In five games since returning to the lineup, Wilson, 24, has two goals and six points while also getting some action on the first power-play unit with Oshie and Kuznetsov out. He scored the opening tally 54 seconds into the game against the Blackhawks on Wednesday.
Goaltender Braden Holtby will likely start against the Red Wings on Friday. Holtby, 29, is 7-5-2 with a save percentage of .909 and a goals-against average of 2.99 this season, but 3-2-0 with a 1.72 goals against average and a .950 save percentage in his last five games. Lifetime against Detroit, Holtby is 9-2-2 and has a career 2.19 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Goaltender Pheonix Copley, who is 4-2-1 with a save percentage of .899 and a goals-against average of 3.07 this season, could start against the Red Wings for the first time in his career but it will most likely be Holtby since he was in the starters net for Thursday’s practice, meaning Copley, 26, would likely start on Saturday at the Rangers if Holtby started against Detroit.
-Ovechkin enters Friday’s game vs. the Red Wings one power-play goal shy of passing Mario Lemieux (236) for seventh place on the NHL power-play goals list
-Wilson is averaging 20:41 minutes per game this season, 4:42 more per game than his previous single-season high set last year
-Holtby’s 99 home wins are tied for the most in the NHL (Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne: 99 wins), while his 2.11 goals against average ranks first among goaltenders with at least 50 home games played during that span and his .925 save percentage ranks third
A Look Back in Time
In Red Wings’ legend Nicklas Lidstrom’s 1500th game, the Capitals spoiled the celebration with a 7-1 victory over the Red Wings. Current Red Wings defenseman Mike Green opened the scoring for the Capitals from the top with six minutes left in the first period. Forward Marcus Johansson beat goaltender Ty Conklin from the goal line almost a minute later to make it 2-0. Green scored again on a scorching wrist shot from above the right circle almost five minutes into the middle frame. After the Red Wings scored the next goal, forward Mathieu Perrault buried a loose puck behind Conklin and forward Joel Ward scored on a two-on-one with center Brooks Laich for his first goal as a Capital to make it 5-1. Perrault scored again in the third with a wicked wrist shot right off the faceoff and Backstrom tipped Carlson’s shot to make it 7-1 with 2:39 left. Goaltender Tomas Voukun made 32 saves to hand the Capitals their seventh straight win to open the season and Detroit their first loss of the season after starting the year 5-0-0.
By Harrison Brown