Chicago at Washington Preview: Capitals Open Four-Game Homestand vs. Blackhawks

Photo: Will Newton/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time since November 21, 2018 on Thursday night. The Capitals and Blackhawks only met once in the 2019-20 season, a 5-3 Capitals victory at United Center on October 20, 2019. The final meeting of the season was not played due to the NHL’s COVID-19 pause and the two did not face one another a season ago in the league’s shortened season.

The Capitals have won eight straight home games against the Blackhawks. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington locally or ESPN+ for those out-of-market beginning at 7 PM ET.

Schedule

The Capitals kick off a season-long four-game homestand after returning from a two-game Southeast road-trip. They have won four straight at Capital One Arena.

After three days off, the Blackhawks begin a three-game Metropolitan Division road trip and start a stretch where they play six straight games against Eastern Conference opponents (five of which come on the road).

Thursday marks the first of two meetings between the Capitals and Blackhawks in a span of 13 days as they will finish off their regular-season series in Chicago on Wednesday, December 15.

Records

Capitals: 7-1-3 at home this season, .773 points percentage (sixth in NHL), have won four straight at home

Blackhawks: 2-7-1 on the road, .250 points percentage (30th), have traded wins and losses past four road games since starting season 0-5-1 away from United Center

How Each Team Is Doing

Capitals: lost 5-4 at Florida Panthers on Monday, 9-3-1 (second best) since going 0-2-1 from November 1-7; have averaged 3.75 goals-per-game (fifth) and 2.33 goals-against per game (tied for fourth) over stretch; also have a 90.3% penalty-killing percentage (fourth) since November 7

Blackhawks: 6-3-0 (eighth in NHL) since starting the season 1-9-2 and replacing head coach Jeremy Colliton with interim Derek King but have been outscored 20-18 over stretch; lost three of five since winning four straight to begin King’s tenure

Standings

Capitals: 14-4-5 (two points ahead of Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers for first in Metropolitan Division, tied for NHL-lead with Panthers, who have a game in hand on Capitals, and Toronto Maple Leafs, who have played one more game), .717 points percentage ranks sixth in NHL but third in Metropolitan Division behind Rangers and Hurricanes (both at .738)

Blackhawks: 7-12-2 (seventh in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference), .381 points percentage (27th in NHL), eight points behind Dallas Stars for final wild card spot but have played one more game than Dallas

Team Leaders

Capitals

Points: LW Alex Ovechkin, 37 (third in NHL behind Edmonton Oilers Cs Leon Draisaitl – 41 — and Connor McDavid — 40)

Goals: Ovechkin, 19 (one behind Draisaitl for NHL lead)

Assists: C Evgeny Kuznetsov, 20 (tied for third with Nashville Predators C Mikael Granlund and Colorado Avalanche C Nazem Kadri)

Plus-Minus: D Nick Jensen, +21 (first in NHL); D Dmitry Orlov, +19 (second); Ovechkin, +16 (tied for sixth)

Additional Notes: Orlov – three two-point games in last four outings (including two goals), RW Tom Wilson – five-game point-streak (three goals and nine points), an NHL-leading seven rookies have scored a goal this season for Capitals

Blackhawks

Points: RW Patrick Kane, 18

Goals: LW Alex DeBrincat, 12

Assists: D Seth Jones, 15

Plus-Minus: D Erik Gustafsson, +1

Additional Notes: Kane – four assists away from 700 in NHL career but has just one assist in last five games, DeBrincat – one goal and -3 rating in last four games, D Connor Murphy/LW Dominik Kubalik tied for fourth-worst in NHL in plus-minus (-12), C Jonathan Toews has just nine assists in 21 games

Team Stats

Possession and Goaltending Metrics

Special Teams, Faceoffs and Shots

Starting Goaltenders

Capitals: Vitek Vanecek, 24

* 4-3-4 record

* .906 save percentage

* 2.54 goals-against average (23rd)

* first career start vs. Blackhawks

* made 26 saves in Capitals’ 5-2 loss at Seattle Kraken on November 21 in his last start

* first start in four games

Blackhawks: Marc-Andre Fleury, 36

* 5-9-0 this season

* .914 save percentage (tied for 30th)

* 2.91 goals-against average (tied for 42nd)

* one shutout

* 24-14-2, .911 save percentage, 2.62 goals-against average, four shutouts in 42 career regular-season games vs. Capitals

* made 20 saves in Blackhawks’ 1-0 loss to San Jose Sharks on Sunday, his last appearance

* second start in eight days

NOTE: Blackhawks traded Malcolm Subban to Buffalo Sabres for future considerations on Thursday

Injuries

Capitals

* C Nicklas Backstrom (hip, expected to miss 24th straight game, week-to-week)

* RW T.J. Oshie (lower-body, sixth/16th in past 17, day-to-day)

* LW Anthony Mantha (shoulder, 14th, indefinite)

* LW Conor Sheary (lower-body, sixth, day-to-day)

Blackhawks

* C Tyler Johnson (neck)

* D Calvin de Haan (lower-back soreness)

Projected Lineups

Capitals

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Aliaksei Protas

Daniel Sprong — Lars Eller — Tom Wilson

Carl Hagelin — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Beck Malenstyn — Connor McMichael — Brett Leason

Martin Fehervary — John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov — Nick Jensen

Trevor van Riemsdyk — Justin Schultz

Vitek Vanecek

Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: Dennis Cholowski, Matt Irwin, Michael Sgarbossa

Blackhawks

Brandon Hagel — Jonathan Toews — Patrick Kane

Alex DeBrincat — Kirby Dach — Dylan Strome

Mike Hardman — Josiah Slavin — Ryan Carpenter

Dominik Kubalik — Henrik Borgstrom — Jujhar Khaira

Riley Stillman — Seth Jones

Jake McCabe — Connor Murphy

Caleb Jones — Erik Gustafsson

Marc-Andre Fleury

Kevin Lankinen

Scratched: D Wyatt Kalynuk, C Reese Johnson

Game Notes

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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