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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.

RELATED: EVGENY KUZNETSOV COULD HAVE CHANGED TUESDAY'S GAME, HERE'S HOW

Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHO STOOD OUT IN TUESDAY'S DEFENSIVE BATTLE?

What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.

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Vrana returns and other morning notes ahead of Saturday's game against the Wild

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Vrana returns and other morning notes ahead of Saturday's game against the Wild

Coming off a poor two-game road trip, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz elected to keep his lineup mostly familiar with Bruce Boudreau and a hot Wild team coming to town.

Here’s how they’re expected to line up tonight on F Street:

Forwards
Stephenson – Backstrom – Oshie
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly
Vrana – Eller – Wilson
Connolly – Beagle – Chiasson
Extra: Walker

Defense
Orpik – Carlson
Orlov – Niskanen
Chorney – Bowey
Extra: Ness

RELATED: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-WILD

Now for some notes, quotes and observations from the morning skate:

  • Braden Holtby (10-4-0/2.68 gaa/.918 Sv%) is scheduled to return to the net for Washington. It’s likely Devan Dubnyk will get the nod for Minnesota, which has won four games in row. Dubnyk (8-6-1/2.28 gaa/.922 Sv%) earned shutouts in three of those games.
  • After getting smoked 6-3 and 6-2 in Nashville and Colorado, respectively, the Caps are looking to get things back on track at home, where they’ll play the next four games in a row and nine of the next 10. The good news? T.J. Oshie and Co. have won their last four games on home ice after a 1-3 start there.
  • The only lineup change for the Caps is Jakub Vrana returning after sitting out Thursday as a healthy scratch. Vrana has two points—both goals—in his last 13 games...and one was scored into an empty net.
  • Trotz was pretty direct when asked where his team needs to improve after a couple of ugly losses on the road. “We were executing, playing pretty solid and in a groove, if you will,” Trotz said of the Caps winning five of six games to start the month. “But it’s gone off the rails a little bit here in the last two games. We’re the only ones that can get it back. …We’ve had too many passengers. Everything starts with our best players. Tonight, we’re going to need our best players to be the best players because everyone else will follow.”
  • Christian Djoos, who suffered an upper-body injury in Nashville and missed the Colorado game, did not skate Saturday. “I don’t know exactly when he’s going to skate yet,” Trotz said. “He’s still day-to-day with the trainers. Once they tell me he can skate, he’ll be out there.”
  • Tyler Graovac, in Hershey on a long-term conditioning stint, figures to be back soon. He’s got a goal and an assist in two games with the Bears. Although the stint is set to end this weekend, Trotz said he plans to talk to Graovac and that his stay in Hershey could be extended to a fourth or fifth game with the player’s permission. “I’ve set it up with him and I have good communication with him,” Trotz said. “[So] if he needs a fourth or a fifth game, we’ll talk and we’ll decide. …There’s a possibility that he could return as soon as Monday or as late as next Friday.” 

 

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS' FIRST QUARTER REPORT CARD

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Game 21: Capitals vs. Wild Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 21: Capitals vs. Wild Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Wild will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Wild game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

 You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-WILD GAME?

The Capitals (10-9-1) take on the Wild (9-7-2) Saturday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-WILD GAME ON?

The Capitals-Wild game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Capitals GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals vs. Wild
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-WILD GAME?

The Capitals-Wild game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-WILD OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.