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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Devils

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Devils

The Capitals (52-15-5, 109 points) will visit the New Jersey Devils (36-31-7, 79 points) tonight at Prudential Center (6:30 p.m., CSN, Pregame Live). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Who’s in goal: Braden Holtby (44-9-4, 2.25 GAA, .921 SP) will make his 60th appearance of the season tonight. He is four wins away from tying Marty Brodeur’s NHL record of 48 victories. The Devils will go with Scott Wedgewood (2-0-0, 0.50, .985), who pitched a 39-save, 3-0 shutout against the Penguins Thursday night.

Where the Caps stand: The Caps can move one step closer to clinching the Presidents’ Trophy with a win tonight. A win by the Caps and a loss on Saturday by the Dallas Stars would clinch the top seed in the playoffs for the Caps.

Where the Devils stand: The Devils are six points out of a playoff spot with eight games to play. New Jersey has won two in a row and five of seven (5-2-0).

Carlson returns: Defenseman John Carlson will return to the Caps lineup for the first time since aggravating a lower body injury on Feb. 24 against Montreal. He’s expected to be paired with Nate Schmidt, leaving a third pairing of Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov.

Oshie out: T.J. Oshie will miss his first game as a Capital with what coach Barry Trotz described as a flu bug.  Oshie did not practice on Thursday and is hoping to be back in the lineup when the Caps face his former team, the St. Louis Blues, Saturday night at Verizon Center. With Oshie out, Stan Galiev will play right wing on a fourth line with center Mike Richards and left wing Daniel Winnik.

Caps vs. Devils: The Caps have won all three meetings this season and are looking for their first-ever season sweep of the Devils. The Caps have won six in a row against New Jersey. Oddly enough, in the Caps’ three wins over the Devils this season Brooks Orpik is a plus-5, while Karl Alzner is a minus-4.

RELATED: Friday 6-pack: When can Caps clinch Presidents' Trophy?

500 for Alzner: Karl Alzner will be playing in his 500th NHL game and his 448th game in a row. “Most players have two goals: the Cup and one thousand games. I’m happy to be halfway there, but I feel like I’ve been playing forever and I’m only at 500. It’s crazy to think a guy like ‘Stick’ is almost at a thousand.” ‘Stick’ is Justin Williams, who will be playing in his  991st NHL game. If Williams plays in each of the Capitals’ final 10 games, he’ll reach 1,000 in the season finale on April 10. (So you can bet he won’t be rested down the stretch).

Dynamic duo: Braden Holtby (44 wins) and Alex Ovechkin (43 goals) are the eighth set of teammates who have recorded 43 wins and 43 goals in the same season. The last were Sharks teammates Evgeny Nabokov (44 wins) and Patrick Marleau (44 goals).

Road warriors: The Caps can set a franchise record with a road win tonight. Their 24 road wins are tied with the 2009-10 Capitals.

CAPITALS
Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Andre Burakovsky
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Stanislav Galiev - Mike Richards - Daniel Winnik

Defense pairings

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov - Brooks Orpik
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: T.J. Oshie (flu)
Scratched: Michael LattaMike WeberTaylor Chorney

DEVILS
Forward lines

Joseph Blandisi - Adam Henrique - Devante Smith-Pelly
Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Sergey Kalinin - Blake Pietila - Mike Sislo
Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Tuomo Ruutu

Defense pairings

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
John Moore - Damon Severson
David Warsofsky - Vojtech Mozik

Goaltenders

Scott Wedgewood (starter) - Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Seth Helgeson
Injured: Cory Schneider (right knee), Jon Merrill (upper body), David Schlemko (upper body), Tyler Kennedy (lower body), Jacob Josefson (hand), Jordin Tootoo (upper body), Patrik Elias (right knee), Mike Cammalleri (right hand/wrist), Jiri Tlusty (right wrist).

MORE CAPITALS: Prospect Report: Hershey drops to second in their division

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The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

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USA TODAY Sports

The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

Congratulations! You just got a new job. There’s just one catch: it’s in a new city.

Oh, and by the way, you start tomorrow. Good luck.

That would be a pretty big shock for anyone, but it is the reality that hockey players constantly face and one that is exacerbated as the trade deadline approaches.

“I know fans and media get really excited about it, but they're not the ones that have to pick up and move their families,” Brooks Orpik said following Sunday’s practice. “I think players are looked at as kind of objects at times, just a number. People don't know there's a human side to trades.”

This season’s NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Monday. Until then, every locker room faces a degree of uncertainty.

RELATED: KEMPNY GETS QUICK PROMOTION TO THE TOP-FOUR

Almost no player or prospect is untouchable. Even if there are no rumors surrounding a team or things seem set, the threat of a trade hangs over the heads of the players like the sword of Damocles until the deadline finally comes and goes.

Even for those players who know they won’t be moved or who can’t be moved because of various clauses in their contracts, it still remains a stressful time as they could still see friends shipped to another city.

“I think what happens on that day is all the players, as soon as they get off the ice at morning skate, they're all looking at their phones and trying to see what happens,” Barry Trotz said. “They want to see what happens around the league.”

Sure, a player can go from a last place team to a contender. On the surface, they should be happy. Behind the scenes, however, midseason trades always carry family implications.

“It's tough on guys,” Orpik said. “Guys have kids in schools or have roots in the community of the teams they play for. As fun as it is for some people, I think as players it can definitely be nerve-wracking for people.”

MORE CAPITALS: TRADE TO CAPS POTENTIALLY OFFERS JERABEK WHAT HE NEVER GOT IN MONTREAL

When those trades do happen, they obviously can throw a player’s life upside-down.

For those players who are not traded, the team has to adjust both to losing familiar faces and to embracing new ones into the locker room.

“When someone comes into a new group, it's not much changed except for obviously a new piece,” Jay Beagle said. “But it's definitely harder on them so you try to make it as easy as possible on them.”

Thus far, the Capitals have added defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek over the past week. While both trades were done in exchange for draft picks, Taylor Chorney was a casualty of the trades as he was placed on waivers to make room for the new additions and was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It's tough losing guys, especially guys that are well-liked in our room,” Orpik said. “Taylor Chorney is a really well-liked guy so I think that impacted us a little bit.”

On Monday, fans, analysts, players and coaches alike will all be frantically checking their phones looking for the latest trade news, but while the deadline brings excitement for fans, it bears very different feelings for the players involved. Those players are people working a job and those trades mean uprooting their life in a matter of days. Regardless of whether a player is better off in terms of the team situation, there is still a human cost to doing business.

“It can affect certain guys because their names are obviously spread all over the place,” Trotz said. “They're human too. They pretend to not hear it, but they do.”

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Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

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USA TODAY Sports

Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

After two games, it looks like Michal Kempny is already moving up in the lineup.

At Sunday’s practice, Kempny played on the team's second defensive pairing, lining up on the left of John Carlson. Previously, the Czech defenseman had been playing on the right of Brooks Orpik. The move to the left allows him to play on his natural side as he is a left-handed shot.

Here are the pairs from Sunday’s practice:

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Christian Djoos
Jakub Jerabek – Madison Bowey

Acquired on Monday from the Chicago Blackhawks, Kempny has played in two games for the Capitals and has received glowing reviews thus far.

“He's a really good pro, that's what sticks out,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He takes care of himself, he works at his game off the ice and with the guys, he has fit in very well.”

RELATED: THE TRADE TO WASHINGTON OFFERS JERABEK THE CHANCE HE NEVER SEEMED TO GET IN MONTREAL

“I've gotten to play a little bit with [Kempny] the last couple games,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think he's a guy that, he moves pretty well and he moves the puck pretty well and likes to keep things pretty simple. He's very consistent and predictable so he's very easy to play with.”

When the Capitals first acquired Kempny, it seemed like the best fit for him would be alongside Carlson. It’s a natural fit with Kempny being a left-shot and Carlson a righty. It also bumps down Christian Djoos to a third-pair role which is preferable to having a rookie in the top-four come the playoffs.

Should Kempny play well with Carlson, that would likely solidify Washington’s top two pairs. The Orlov-Niskanen pair was not going to be changed and Carlson was going to be on the second pair. The only question was who would ultimately play with him in the postseason?

The third pair, however, remains a work in progress.

The Caps will have to wait at least another day for the debut of their second recent acquisition as Jakub Jerabek cannot yet play due to visa issues and will miss Monday's game, reports Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Considering the issues Washington has had on defense, they would not have brought in another defenseman just to be a healthy scratch. He will get his shot to earn a spot in the lineup.

With two new defensemen in tow, obviously the team will need to experiment over the next few days and weeks to find the right combinations.

“We're going to have to probably spend at least the next 10 to 12 games doing that and then we'll have to sort of settle in,” Trotz said. “With eight defenseman, you sort of want to see which guys you’re going to play and who to play as partners and sort of a little bit of ranking. If someone goes down, who's filling that extra role?”

MORE CAPITALS: WHY THERE'S NO REASON FOR CAPS FANS TO WORRY