The Capitals (37-9-4, 78 points) will take on the Flyers (23-18-9, 55 points) today in a Super Bowl matinee beginning at noon (NBC). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Where the Caps stand: The Caps are coming off Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Devils, maintaining their Metro Division lead over the Rangers at 15 points. The Caps remain the only team in the NHL without back-to-back losses in regulation.
Where the Flyers stand: The Flyers are coming off Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers and are 3-0-1 in their last four games, including a 4-3 overtime win at Verizon Center on Jan. 27, the final game before the All-Star break. With 55 points the Flyers are four behind the Devils for the eighth and final payoff spot and would need to climb the Carolina Hurricanes (56 points), Islanders (58 points) and Devils (59 points) to get there.
Who’s in goal for the Caps: Braden Holtby (32-5-3, 2.06, .928) will make his third straight start for the Caps. He is 24-1-3 in his last 28 decisions and is 2-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back games this season, allowing two goals in each of those starts.
Who’s in goal for the Flyers: With Michael Neuvirth sidelined with a lower body injury, Steve Mason (12-12-7, 2.68, .916) will get the start today rather than give rookie callup Antony Stolarz his NHL debut against the NHL’s No. 1 team. Mason has played the tail end of back-to-backs twice this season and is 2-0-0 with two goals against. Mason has not lost in regulation since Jan. 21 (2-0-1).
Super Caps: The Caps are 15-8-2 all-time and 15-7-1 at home on Super Bowl Sunday. The Caps are 3-0-0 on Sundays this season, outscoring opponents 19-6.
Bura-cuda: Andre Burakovsky became the eighth player in Caps history to play his 100th game before his 21st birthday on Saturday. (Burakovsky turns 21 in Nashville on Tuesday). Burakovsky has a goal in five straight games and points in six srtraight (5 goals, 2 assists).
Simmonds in: Despite a match penalty taken when he took a gloved swing at Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Saturday Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (18-16-34) did not have a hearing and will not be suspended, allowing him to play today. Holtby said Simmonds might be the best player in the NHL at screening goalies and tipping in shots from the perimeter.
Ghost be here: Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has been a revelation this season. Sonce being called up in November the 22-year-old blue liner has nine goals and 17 assists in 32 games. He had a pair of assists against the Caps in the Flyers’ last visit to Verizon Center. Gostisbehere is on a seven-game scoring streak (2-8-10), three short of Mikael Renberg’s rookie record set in 1993-94.
Power outage: The Caps are 0-for-15 on the power play in their last four games.
Here are projected lineups for both teams:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson
Paul Carey - Brooks Laich - Michael Latta
John Carlson - Nate Schmidt
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
John Carlson - Nate Schmidt
Dmitri Orlov - Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer
Jake Voracek - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
Sam Gagner - Nick Cousins - Brayden Schenn
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White
Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Matt Read
Michael Del Zotto - Shayne Gostisbehere
Nick Schultz - Mark Streit
Evgeny Medvedev - Radko Gudas
Steve Mason (starter) – Anthony Stolarz
Michal Neuvirth (lower-body injury, 1 week)
Sean Couturier (lower-body injury, 4 weeks)
MORE CAPITALS: Holtby: 'The only stat I care about is wins'