In recognition of his 500th NHL goal Sunday night, the Capitals will present captain Alex Ovechkin with a gold-plated silver stick before tonight’s game (6:30 p.m., CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Miller time: Goaltender Ryan Miller (10-11-6, 2.74 GAA, .909 SP) will be back between the pipes for the Canucks after missing the previous six games with a groin injury. He is 17-13-0 in 31 career appearances against the Capitals and has allowed 18 of Ovechkin’s 501 goals.
Holt-beast: Caps goaltender Braden Holtby is scheduled to make his 35th start of the season. He’s 27-4-2 with a 1.93 GAA and .932 SP with two shutouts. Holtby has faced the Canucks just twice in his career and is 1-1-0 with a 3.05 GAA and .895 SP.
Chasing Olie: Holtby is 19-0-2 in his last 21 decisions. In the last 20 seasons, only Jose Theodore (20-0-3 in 2009-10) has a longer points streak in the NHL. Holtby’s next win will be his 129th as a Capital, moving him past Don Beaupre and into second place on the club’s all-time list. Olie Kolzig recorded 301 wins in his career with the Caps.
Ovi’s greatness: Since entering the NHL in 2005-06, Ovechkin has posted 150 more goals, 48 more points and 36 more multi-goal games than anyone in the NHL. Canucks forward Radim Vrbata said he hopes Ovechkin is tire of reaching milestones. “Maybe it’s good for us that he scored that goal and scored one more after that,” Vrbata said of No. 500 and 501. “He can relax now.”
Lineup shuffle: Marcus Johansson, who forfeited $40,322.58 with his two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, will return to the lineup centering a third line with left wing Jason Chimer and right wing Tom Wilson. The Caps will go with a fourth line of center Zach Sill between left wing Brooks Laich and right wing Stan Galiev. That will leave Mike Richards (conditioning) and Michael Latta as forward scratches.
High praise: Daniel Sedin said he has trouble finding a weakness in the Capitals. “They have a great goalie, good puck-moving defensemen, and I think their skill up front is the best in the league if you look at all four lines. It’s impressive what they’ve done so far and it’s going to be a good test for us. I don’t think they have a weakness on their team.”
Gomez a Bear: The Hershey Bears signed veteran center Scott Gomez to a professional tryout contract. He is exclusive rights to the Bears and cannot play for the Capitals unless they sign him to an NHL contract.
Here are projected lineups for both teams: