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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Bruins

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Bruins

The Capitals (28-7-3, 59 points) are in Boston tonight to face the Bruins (20-13-4, 44 points) at TD Garden. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

With or without you:  Alex Ovechkin has been pretty consistent this season, whether he’s been riding shotgun with center Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom. In his first 15 games with Kuznetsov, Ovechkin had 8 goals and 8 assists for 16 points. In his last 22 games with Backstrom, Ovechkin has 13 goals and 5 assists for 18 points. Ovechkin sits three goals off the league-leading pace set by Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn.

Between the pipes: Braden Holtby (24-4-2, 1.92 GAA, .932 SP) will get the call for the Caps, while Tuukka Rask (14-10-3, 2.51 GAA, .914 SP) will go for the B’s. Holtby burst onto the NHL against the Bruins in the 2012 playoffs, defeating the defending Stanley Cup champs in seven games. In his career, Holtby is 8-2-0 with three shutouts, a 1.52 GAA and .954 SP. In 11 career games against the Caps, Rask is 1-7-3 with a 3.01 GAA and .896 SP and one shutout.

Where they stand: The Caps are atop the Metro Division and Eastern Conference, but are 0-1-1 in their last two games. The Bruins hold the final playoff spot in the East with 44 points, tied with Ottawa, which is in ninth place. The Bruins have lost four of their last five and have been outscored 16-5 in those four losses.

Galiev in, Latta out: Caps coach Barry Trotz is expected to shake up his fourth line by replacing right wing Michael Latta with Stan Galiev. Galiev has not played since Dec. 14 and has two assists in seven games this season.

“He's practiced really well," Trotz told reporters in Boston. "He deserves to be in. He gives us a lot more speed at the forward position. I think that's an area where we can be a pretty quick team and push the pace in the game." 

Is it possible the Caps might be showcasing Galiev for a potential trade?

Just the facts: The Caps have outscored their opponents 46-30 in third periods this season but are coming off their first loss when leading after two periods (19-0-1). The Bruins have outscored opponents 39-37 in the third period and are 13-2-1 when leading after two.

Leaders: Evgeny Kuznetsov (34 points) has a one-point lead over Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the team lead. Backstrom and Kuznetsov lead the club with 23 assists. Patrice Bergeron leads the Breuins with 35 points, while Brad Marchand leads them with 15 goals, one more than Bergeron and Loui Eriksson.

Top PP units: The NHL’s top two power-play units collide tonight. Led by Bergeron (7), Eriksson (7) and Ryan Spooner (5) the Bruins are No. 1 with a success rate of 28.6 percent. The Caps are next at 25.6 percent, paced by Ovechkin (7) and Oshie (5).

Ovi on Chara: Asked if 6-foot-9, 250-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara is still tough to face at age 38, Ovechkin, 30, quipped: “Even when he’s 50 years old he’s going to be hard to play against.”

Chasing 3,000: The Bruins currently have a lifetime record of 2,999-2,280-791-139 in 6,208 regular season games. With their next win, they will become just the second team in NHL history with 3,000 regular season victories (Montreal, 3,282).

Right at home: The Capitals are 13-4-2 on the road this season, ranking first in the NHL in point percentage (.737) and tied for first in road wins (13) and road points (28). The Caps have earned a point in 11 of their last 13 road games (9-2-2).

RELATED: Are the Caps interested in Dustin Byfuglien?

CAPITALS

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Zach Sill – Stanislav Galiev

Defense pairings

Matt Niskanen – Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt

Aaron Ness – Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), John Carlson (lower body), Jay Beagle (upper body)

Scratched: Michael LattaRyan Stanton

BRUINS

Forward lines

Loui Eriksson – Patrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly

Matt Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Landon Ferraro

Frank Vatrano – Joonas Kemppainen – Jimmy Hayes

Zac Rinaldo – Max Talbot – Tyler Randell

Defense pairings

Zdeno Chara – Zach Trotman

Dennis Seidenberg – Colin Miller

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask (starter) - Jonas Gustavsson

Injured: David Krejci (upper body), Chris Kelly (broken femur)

Scratched: Kevan MillerJoe Morrow

MORE CAPITALS: Alzner on losing two in a row: 'We hate it'

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!