The Capitals (54-16-6, 114 points) will visit the Colorado Avalanche (39-34-4, 82 points) tonight at Pepsi Center and will do it without the help of center Nicklas Backstrom, who is sidelined day-to-day with an upper body injury. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
More on Backstrom: Backstrom skated with the Caps on Friday but will miss his first game since Oct. 15 when he sat out the first three games of the season following offseason hip surgery.
Backstrom was checked headfirst into the boards by Brayden Schenn late in the third period of the Caps’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers on Wednesday night.
“He just got banged up a little bit last game so we're just going to keep him out for precautionary reasons,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told reporters on Friday.
Holt-beast vs. Varly: Braden Holtby (46-9-5, 2.37, .921) can come within one win of Marty Brodeur’s single season wins record with a victory tonight. He’ll be facing former Capitals netminder Semyon Varlamov (27-21-3, 2.57, .918).
On a roll: In his four starts since being pulled in the Caps’ 6-2 loss in Pittsburgh on March 20 Holtby is 3-0-1 record with one shutout, a 0.98 GAA and a .963 save percentage. Holtby’s 46 wins ties him for the fourth most wins by a goaltender in NHL history. Holtby is 6-1-2 in his past nine games.
Back-to-backs: The Caps’ back-to-back weekend (they’ll face Arizona on Saturday) will be their 14th set of consecutive games this season. They are 20-5-1 in back-to-back games this season, outscoring opponents 82-57.
On the road again: The Caps are 25-9-4 on the road this season, ranking first in the NHL in road point percentage (.711) and second in road wins (25) and road points (54).
Chasing 50: Alex Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season Wednesday night in Philadelphia, passing Dale Hawerchuk (518) for 35th place on the NHL all-time goal scoring list. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals and power-play goals (18). Since entering the NHL in 2005-06, Ovechkin has posted 161 more goals, 70 more power-play goals, 36 more multi-goal games, 28 more points and 19 more game-winning goals than any other player.
Record setters: The Caps’ 54 wins are tied for the most in franchise history (2009-10 team also had 54) and they are seven points shy of matching the franchise record for points in a season (2009-10: 121). The Capitals have earned a point in 47 of their last 58 games (42-11-5) and rank first in the NHL in goals-against per game (2.30), second in power-play percentage (22.9) and goals per game (3.07) and fourth in penalty kill percentage (84.6 percent).
Chasing the Jennings: The Caps are closing in on their second Jennings Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL team with the lowest goals-against average. The Capitals rank first in the NHL in goals against (177) this season. Washington previously won the award in 1983-84 (Al Jensen/Pat Riggin).
Duchene returns: The Avs will get top-line center Matt Duchene back in the lineup after he missed six games with a knee injury.
Here are projected lineups for both teams:
Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Injured: Nicklas Backstrom (upper body)
Mikkel Boedker - Matt Duchene - Mikhail Grigorenko
Nikita Zadorov - Francois Beauchemin