The Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) will visit the Montreal Canadiens (19-4-3, 41 points) tonight at the Bell Centre (7 p,m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Where they stand: The Caps have won five straight but remain two points behind the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Rangers will face the Colorado Avalanche tonight at MSG. The Canadiens, who have played three more games than the Caps, own the NHL’s best record and are 5-0-1 in their last six games.
"Both teams have Stanley Cup aspirations and we're both around the top of the conference, so yeah, it's one you might look at a couple of months ago and not really think it's a big deal, but now it is,” Capitals right wing Justin Williams told reporters after today’s morning skate. “Every little edge you can get in a game, whether it be in regular season, preseason, anything, to make the team think that you're too hard to beat is important, so it's an important game for us."
Holt-beast: Holtby enters tonight’s game with a personal high seven-game win streak. He went 9-2-0 with a 1.99 GAA and. 927 SP in the month of November. With Carey Price sidelined with a lower-body injury, rookie goaltender Mike Condon is expected to get his fourth straight start for the Habs. Condon is 9-2-3 with a 2.11 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Feeling it: Alex Left wing Ovechkin has four goals and two assists in his past six games, while center Evgeny Kuznetsov has two goals and six assists in his past five games. Left wing Jason Chimera has a goal and an assist in each of his past two games. Three of Marcus Johansson’s five goals this season have been game winner. Montreal left wing Max Pacioretty has a five-game point streak and leads the Habs with 13 goals and 25 points.
Chasing history: With a win tonight Caps coach Barry Trotz would catch former Caps GM Bryan Murray with 620 NHL coaching victories, good for 10th on the NHL’s all-time list. Justin Williams is one point shy of 600 in the NHL.Left wing Marcuys Johansson is one point shy of 200 and Karl Alzner is set to play in his 400th consecutive game.
Powerful: The Caps scored have scored six power-play goals in their last three games and 10 in their last nine. The Caps are 19 for 71 (26.8 percent) on the man-advantage, ranking second in the NHL.
Clarification: Caps defenseman Brooks Oroiuk (lower body) is on the team’s two-game road but will not play tonight and is not expected to play Saturday in Winnipeg.
Here are tonight’s projected lineups:
KaRL Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratches: Stanislav Galiev, Chris Brown
Mike Condon (starter) - Zach Fucale