After a four-day holiday break, the Caps (25-6-2, 52 points) will host the Montreal Canadiens (20-13-3, 43 points) on Saturday at 7 p.m. You can catch all the action on CSN starting with Capitals Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Opposite directions: Saturday's game pits two division leaders against one another, but it sure doesn't feel that way. The Caps have won their last six while Montreal has lost its last five and are now clinging to the top of the Atlantic Division by a single point. Advantage Caps, right? Not according to Barry Trotz.
"I just think probably the odds are in their favor," Trotz said. "In this league you go four, five, six games, whatever it is and you're on a winning streak or a losing streak and it sort of changes."
The Price is wrong: Much of Montreal's current problems are due to the injury of superstar goalie Carey Price. The reigning Hart Trophy winner for league MVP has not played since Nov. 25. In that stretch, Montreal has gone 3-9-1. For the season, Price is 10-2-0 with a .934 save percentage and 2.06 GAA.
Hard hitting: A matchup between the Caps and Canadiens features one of the top scorers in Alex Ovechkin facing one of the top defensemen in P.K. Subban. Whenever these two meet, there are always fireworks like this.
When last we met:The Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal on Dec. 3. In that game, the Caps were outshot 35-19, went 0 for 3 on the power play and were thoroughly outplayed. Of course, they won the game 3-2, but Trotz freely acknowleged it was not their best effort.
"Last time we played this team they really forechecked us really well and we didn't have one of our better games. We ended up winning, but we didn't feel like we won the game."
Holtby was the team's first start that night with 33 saves. The Caps will be looking for a similar outcome, but a better effort.
Messing with Montreal: Despite being one of the best teams in the East the past two seasons, the Caps have fared well against their neighbors to the north with a 4-0-2 record in their last six meetings. Holtby is 7-0-2 against Montreal with two shutouts, a 1.40 GAA and .949 save percentage making us all really wish he was playing in the 2010 playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has 39 points in 37 career games against the Canadiens including the goal that made him the Caps all-time leading scorer on April 2, 2015.
Holiday travel: Because of the holiday, Montreal has some fairly unique travel plans for the trip to Washington. Instead of flying into Washington the night before as teams typically do, the Canadiens instead took their morning skate in Montreal on Saturday, then hopped on a plane to get to Washington. Good thing the weather cooperated. This likely will have no impact on how the Canadiens play, but it is unusual enough to at least note before hand.
Montreal notebook: The Canadiens announced defenseman Tom Gilbert will be re-evaluated for a lower body injury after the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 meaning he will miss the game in Washington. Forward Sven Andrighetto will be scratched for a fourth straight game Saturday. He has four goals in 12 games this season.
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
MORE CAPITALS: Caps recall Connor Carrick