Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the Los Angeles Kings for the final meeting between the two teams this season. The Capitals earned a 3-1 victory at Staples Center the first time that they clashed with the Kings this season, their third straight win over L.A. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Kings open up a four-game Eastern Conference road swing and continue a stretch where they play 12 of their next 15 away from the City of Angels. They are 8-17-4 away from Staples Center this season and are tied with the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres for the third-fewest road wins, but they have played four more road games than the Sharks have this season. After four straight road losses (0-3-1), the Kings earned a 3-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes in their last road game.
After coming last in the West with 71 points last season, the Kings have picked up where they left off this year as their 43 points are last in the conference again and their -36 goal differential is the second-worst in the West (Sharks: -41) and fourth-worst in the league. They have won only one of their last seven games (1-5-1) and two of 11 (2-8-1) since the new decade began. The Kings have scored more than three goals only three times in their last 17 games and have allowed at least three in five of their last six.
Center Anze Kopitar leads the Kings in goals (17), assists (30), and points (47) in 53 games this season. Besides the 32-year-old, forward Alex Iafallo (31) is the only other King to hit the 30-point plateau this season. Kopitar is coming into Tuesday’s game on a three-game assist streak, where he has four, and three goals and 14 points in his last dozen outings. Iafallo, 26, has five goals in his last five games and nine goals and 15 points in his last 16. The Kings terminated the final two seasons of forward Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract on December 16 after he recorded only three goals, nine points, and a -10 rating in 17 games with them. He signed a one-year contract with the Canadiens on January 3.
As you could guess, the Kings struggle to score as their 2.47 goals-per-game is the second-worst in the NHL this season ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings (2.08) but that is not for a lack of effort as they average 33.9 shots-per-game, the third most behind only the Montreal Canadiens (34.7) and Vegas Golden Knights (34.2). Meanwhile, the Kings allow the fewest shots in the league (an average of 28.8 per game). Their average of 3.11 goals-against per game the tenth-most while their 17.8% power-play efficiency is the ninth-worst. The Kings’ 74.3% penalty-killing rate is the fifth-worst.
Goaltender Jack Campbell, who is 8-10-2 with a .900 save percentage and a 2.85 goals-against average in 20 games this season, could start for the Kings in Washington. In his lone career start against the Capitals, the 28-year-old allowed three goals on 21 shots in a 3-2 loss in Los Angeles on February 18, 2019. Jonathan Quick, who is 11-19-3 with a .895 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against average this season, is 9-4-0 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.51 goals-against average in 13 career games against the Capitals. The 34-year-old made 19 saves in the Kings’ 3-1 loss to the Capitals in December.
The Capitals continue a season-long four-game homestand and a stretch where they play seven of 11 at Capital One Arena against the Kings after dropping the opener by a score of 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, their second consecutive home loss and third in five games (2-3-0). The Capitals are 15-7-4 on home ice this season and have scored at least three goals in each of their past three home games.
The Capitals are looking to find some consistency on Tuesday night against the Kings after dropping two of their last three games in regulation. Prior to that, they won four in a row. They have allowed at least three goals in each of their last three games, four of their past fix, and 11 of their last 17. The Capitals are just barely above .500 in that span, where they are 9-8-0. After dropping Sunday’s game, the Capitals’ lead for first in the Metropolitan Division is down to four while the Penguins have a game in hand.
Defenseman John Carlson, who has been held off of the scoresheet in three of the last four, ranks 10th in the NHL with 62 points, third with 49 assists, and 17th with a +18 rating, which trails only defenseman Radko Gudas (+21, tied for ninth in the league) among the team rankings. The 30-year-old has not scored since December 20 but has 15 assists in his last 17 games. Captain Alex Ovechkin saw his five-game goal-scoring streak, where he notched 11 goals, came to an end against the Penguins as he was held without a point but the 34-year-old is only one behind Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the NHL-lead in goals this season with 37.
The Capitals’ average of 3.58 goals-per-game this season is tied with the Lightning for the fourth-most in the league. They had scored at least four goals in five straight games before Sunday’s loss. Their average of 2.94 goals-against per game is 11th in the NHL while their 84.5% penalty-killing rate is second behind only the Sharks. The Capitals’ 20.1% power-play efficiency is tied with the Canadiens for 11th. Their average of 32.2 shots-per-game is tied with Penguins for the ninth-most while their average of 29.8 shots-against per game is the fourth-fewest.
After sitting each of the past two games, goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 19-10-4 with an .896 save percentage and a 3.11 goals-against average this season, will likely start against the Kings on Tuesday. In four career games against the Kings, the 30-year-old is 1-2-1 with a .911 save percentage, a 2.51 goals-against average, and one shutout. He has not started a game against the Kings since November 30, 2017, when he made 22 saves in a 5-2 loss.
- Holtby is currently one shutout shy of passing Olie Kolzig (35) for the most shutouts in Capitals’ history
- Absent a last-minute change in the lineup, center Nicklas Backstrom will pass Kelly Miller (940) for the fourth-most games played in franchise history
- The Capitals’ current three-game winning streak vs. the Kings is the first time the Capitals have had one against L.A. since 1992-1994
- Center Lars Eller, who recorded two goals against the Penguins, has points in four consecutive games (two goals, five points), tied for the longest point streak of his career (twice, most recent: Jan. 7-12 2018, four goals)
- Forward Carl Hagelin, who will take on his former team for the second time since getting dealt to Washington on February 21, has recorded a point in each of his last six games (three goals, six points), the longest point streak of his career
By Harrison Brown