Quick Links

AAA Keys to the Game: Big test awaits Caps in Montreal


AAA Keys to the Game: Big test awaits Caps in Montreal

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:


Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Andre Burakovsky

Brooks LaichMichael Latta - Tom Wilson

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

KaRL Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney


Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)

Scratches: Stanislav Galiev, Chris Brown


Forward lines

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Plekanec - Paul Byron

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Sven Andrighetto

Devante Smith-Pelly - Brian Flynn - Christian Thomas

Defense pairs

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Nathan Beaulieu - Jeff Petry

Alexei Emelin - Tom Gilbert


Mike Condon (starter) - Zach Fucale

Injured: Brendan Gallagher (hand), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Carey Price (lower body), Alex Semin (lower body)

Scratched: Greg PaterynDaniel Carr


Quick Links

Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

Quick Links

Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”