The Washington Capitals winged their way to the Wind City Tuesday afternoon following practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. They will face the Blackhawks tonight at the United Center and then depart for north of the border in advance of their tilt with the Jets in Winnipeg on Friday.
The team changed their morning skate to “optional” this morning. Tom Wilson skated in a non-contact jersey and continues to make progress towards his return. Wilson has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since the Penguins game last Friday.
Tom Wilson (upper body) is skating today at the team’s optional morning skate in Chicago. In a non-contact jersey. Continues to make progress.
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) December 15, 2021
Head Coach Peter Laviolette told the media following the morning skate that Ilya Samsonov (11-2-1) 0.915 SV%, 2.47 GAA, 3 SO, will get the start in goal tonight against the Blackhawks. Marc-Andre Fleury (8-10-0) 0.913 SV%, 2.79 GAA, 2 SO, will get the start between the pipes for the Blackhawks.
Laviolette would not offer much on whether Nicklas Backstrom might return to the lineup tonight.
Laviolette added that Nic Dowd and Trevor van Riemsdyk practiced and should be available for tonight.
The Capitals face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight for the second and final time this season enter tonight’s game tied for second in the NHL with 40 points (17-5-6). The Capitals lost the first matchup on Dec. 2, 4-3, in a shootout at Capital One Arena.
GAME PREVIEW: The Capitals face the Blackhawks tonight at 8 p.m. ET on @NBCSWashington. Washington is 8-3-2 away from Capital One Arena this season, boast the fourth-best road points percentage in the NHL (.692) and have allowed the fourth-fewest goals against (34) on the road. pic.twitter.com/AI8sbOo5QS
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) December 15, 2021
Washington has won nine of its last 13 games against Chicago and has posted an 11-5-1 record in its last 17 games against the Blackhawks. Alex Ovechkin has tallied 20 points (10g, 10a) in 20 career games against the Blackhawks and has earned 16 points (7g, 9a) in his last 17 games against Chicago.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is nearing his return to the lineup after missing the first 28 games with a hip injury. His next game will mark his first since the First Round of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins on May 23, 2021. Backstrom, who reached the 1,000 career game mark on April 15, 2021, is now 20 points shy from reaching the 1,000 point mark.
Backstrom has recorded 980 points (258g, 722a) in 1,011 career games and is aiming to become the second player (Ovechkin: 1,364 points) in franchise history and the eighth active player in the NHL to reach the 1,000-point mark.
Last season Backstrom became the second active player to reach the 1,000-game mark with at least 700 career assists (Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh). Only 23 players in NHL history had at least 700 assists at the 1,000-game mark in their career and 21 are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, while two are not yet eligible (Crosby and Jaromir Jagr). The Capitals hold a record of 599-300-112 with Backstrom in the lineup, which equates to a .647 point percentage and 106 points over an 82 game season.