Photo: USA Today
The Washington Capitals head north of the border to face the Ottawa Senators for the second time in a week and the last time in Canada’s capital city this season. The Capitals shut out the Senators, 4-0, last Saturday in the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Action from Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM Eastern.
The Capitals go for their fourth consecutive win and their 16th win in their last 19 games on Saturday night. The team will play their final game of the calendar year, where they have won four straight and nine of their last 11 games. They are 11-5-1 overall away from home. Washington will play four of the next five games on the road.
Captain Alex Ovechkin will look to halt a four-game goal drought against the Senators. Prior to his dry spell, the 32-year old forward posted a 14-game point-streak, where he recorded 17 goals and 23 points, and a six-game goal-scoring streak, where he tallied 10 goals. He leads the Capitals with 44 points this season. With a goal on Saturday, Ovechkin will become the first player in the NHL to hit 30 goals this season.
The Capitals rank third in the NHL with an average of 3.58 goals-per-game and seventh with an efficiency of 23.5% on the man advantage. The team owns five of the top-50 league leaders in terms of point-per-game average: Ovechkin (1.25) is tied with Vegas Golden Knights forward Brandon Pirri for 14th, center Nicklas Backstrom (1.17 is 22nd, center Evgeny Kuznetsov (1.07) is 38th, defenseman John Carlson (1.06) is 39th, and forward Tom Wilson (1.00) is in a nine-way tie for 43rd.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen‘s status for Saturday night’s tilt is unclear after the 32-year old landed face first into the boards following a hit from Carolina Hurricanes forward Clark Bishop in the last few moments of Thursday’s game, which forced him to leave the Capitals’ 3-1 win over the Hurricanes. He did not practice with the team on Friday but is traveling with the team to Ottawa. Niskanen is listed as day-to-day. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has missed the past 26 games with a knee injury, is also listed as day-to-day and practiced with the team on Friday but will not play against the Senators on Saturday night.
The Capitals enter Saturday night’s game 25th in the league with a 77.1% penalty-killing rate.
Pheonix Copley, who is 8-2-1 with a save percentage of .912 and a goals-against average of 2.67 in 12 games this season, will start on Saturday night. He made 35 in last Saturday’s win over Ottawa, his first career start against the Senators and his last one.
The Senators finish a set of back-to-back games coming out of the holiday break on Saturday night. They lost to the New York Islanders by a score of 6-3 on Friday night in Brooklyn, their third consecutive loss. Ottawa enters Saturday’s slate of NHL action last in the Atlantic Division and 15th in the Eastern Conference with 34 points. While they have the fifth-worst record in the NHL at 15-19-4, they are 11-6-3 at home this season.
The Senators are a dangerous offensive team, as they entered Friday night’s tilt in the Big Apple averaging 3.19 goals-per-game (11th in the NHL) and converting at a rate of 21.6% on the man advantage (13th in the NHL), but allowing the most goals in the league (3.89 goals-against per game average) and are 30th in the league on the penalty kill (74.3% killing rate). Only the Los Angeles Kings (74.1%) are worse while playing with a man down than Ottawa is.
In a contract year, forward Mark Stone leads the Senators with 17 goals and 41 points in 37 games. His +9 rating is the highest on Ottawa. The 26-year old forward signed a one-year contract worth $7.35 million on August 3. He and center Matt Duchene, who has tallied 15 goals and 37 points in 32 games this season, can become two of the hottest unrestricted free agents if they hit July 1.
Defenseman Thomas Chabot will miss tonight’s game due to an upper-body injury suffered against the Islanders after receiving a shoulder-to-shoulder hit from forward Matt Martin. Chabot has 38 points, one point ahead of the Capitals’ Carlson for second-most among NHL defenseman though Carlson, 28, has played in two fewer games and is tied for the NHL lead with San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly with 31 assists. Chabot, 21, led the Senators with an average of 24:15 worth of ice time per game heading into Friday’s game after the team traded captain Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks for forward Chris Tierney, defenceman Dylan DeMelo, and forward prospects Josh Norris and Rudolfs Balcers as well as a first-round draft pick (2019 or 2020) and a second-round pick in 2019 on September 13.
Since goaltender Mike McKenna, who is 1-4-1 with a save percentage of .885 and a goals-against average of 4.47 this season, started against the Islanders and made 33 saves on Friday and Craig Anderson is out with a concussion, goaltender Marcus Hogberg will likely make his NHL debut against the Capitals on Saturday night. In eight games with the AHL’s Belleville Senators this season, the 24-year old is 3-3-1 with a save percentage of .916 and a goals-against average of 2.32. McKenna, 35, made 29 saves in the Senators’ 4-0 loss to the Capitals last Saturday.
-The Capitals have won four consecutive games against the Senators and are 10-1-0 in their past 11 games against Ottawa
-Ovechkin has earned 45 points (27 goals) in 42 career games against Ottawa
-In December, the Capitals have trailed for 114:39 cumulative minutes, the second fewest minutes during that span (Columbus: 112:58)
A Look Back In Time