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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Kings

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Kings

The Capitals (40-10-4, 84 points) take on the Los Angeles Kings (33-19-3, 69 points) tonight at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Who’s in goal for the Caps: The Caps are expected to go with backup Philipp Grubauer (5-4-1, 2.24 GAA, .919 SP), who will give Braden Holtby a rest after Holtby played in six straight games. Grubauer last played on Feb. 2, a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. His last win came back on Jan. 10. Grubauer has never faced the Kings.

Who’s in goal for the Kings: Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice after the morning skate, but coach Darryl Sutter would not confirm Quick will be starting for the first time since suffering a lower body injury on Feb. 9. Quick is 28-14-4 with a 2.23 GAA, .918 SP and two shutouts. In six career games against the Caps he’s 5-1-0 with a 2.44 GAA and .915 SP.

Call him ‘Stick:’ Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said Justin Williams probably got the nickname “Stick” because he’s “pretty skinny,” but the “Mr. Game 7” nickname came from outside the Kings’ locker room. Tyler Toffoli said he’s never called Williams  “Mr. Game 7,” but might tonight. “I know he hated it," Toffoli said. “So maybe I'll say it to him on the ice.”

Demanding Sutter: Mike Richards was asked what makes Darryl Sutter a successful hockey coach and his answer was interesting.

“He doesn’t let things slide,” Richards said. “You can win 10 in a row and he’d still be on you. He demands the best from his players.”

Orpik in, Chorney out: Brooks Orpik’s three months on long-term injury finally ends tonight when he plays for the first time since suffering a lower body injury on a blocked shot on Nov. 10. The Caps were 10-4-0 when Orpik was in the lineup and have gone 30-6-4 with him.

“He’s very, very tough to play against,” said Kings center Vincent Lecavalier, who has five goals and four assists in 23 games with the Kings after arriving from Philadelphia. “He’s obviously a big boy and he plays hard. I played against him in the playoffs against Pittsburgh and he adds depth to that skilled defense.”

Lecavalier, 35, has played 84 career games against the Capitals and has 35 goals and 36 assists for 71 points.

Look for Orpik to play alongside Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney to be a healthy scratch for the first time since Nov. 10.

Drought continues: Brooks Laich has one goal in 53 games this season and has not scored in his last 41 contests, dating back to his game-winner Nov. 5 in Boston. He is also a team-worst minus-8. Mike Richards (minus-1) is the only other minus player on the Caps’ roster.

Where they stand: The Caps rank first in the NHL in goals for per game (3.30) and second in the league in goals allowed per game (2.30). The Kings rank ninth in goals for per game (2.75) and sixth in goals allowed per game (2.35).

Special teams: The Caps rank first on the power play (24.4 percent) and fifth on the penalty kill (83.7 percent). The Kings rank second on the power play (23.1 percent) and 10th on the kill (81.6 percent).

By the numbers: The Caps have a goal differential of plus-7 in the first period, plus-22 in the second period and plus-25 in the third period. By comparison, the Kings are plus-2 in the first, plus-8 in the second and plus-5 in the third. That might explain why they are 31-0-1 when leading after two periods. The Caps are also 58-1-4 when leading with 10 minutes remaining in regulation under Barry Trotz.

[RELATED: Orpik to make his return to the lineup Tuesday against Kings]

Here are projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS 

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie  

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams  

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson  

Brooks Laich - Mike Richards - Michael Latta  

Defensive pairs

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner  

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson  

Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov 

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby  

Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body) 

Scratched: Stan Galiev  

KINGS 

Forward lines

Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown   

Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli   

Tanner Pearson - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis   

Nick Shore - Andy Andreoff - Jordan Nolan  

Defense pairs

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty   

Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez   

Kevin Gravel - Luke Schenn   

Goaltenders

Jonathan Quick (projected starter) -  Jhonas Enroth   

Injured: Matt Greene (upper body), Marian Gaborik (lower body) 

Scratched: Kyle CliffordJamie McBainPeter Budaj   

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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!