The Capitals (46-12-4, 96 points) continue their three-game homestand tonight (6:30, CSN Pregame Live) against Brooks Laich, Connor Carrick and the Toronto Maple Leafs (21-30-10, 52 points). Here are our AAA Keys to the game:
Who’s in/out for Caps: Left wing Daniel Winnik will make his Capitals debut, but it’s hard to say where since coach Barry Trotz shuffled his lines so much Tuesday night against the Penguins. Winnik will take Stan Galiev’s place in the lineup. Defenseman Taylor Chorney returns to the lineup and will replace Nate Schmidt, who has struggled in recent games.
Tonight’s goalies: After seeing Braden Holtby get to 40 wins faster than any goalie in NHL history, the Caps will turn to Philipp Grubauer (6-5-1, 2.11 GAA, .926 SP). He has never faced the Leafs. Jonathan Bernier (7-16-3, 3.12, .898) is expected to start for the Leafs. He’s 3-3-0 lifetime against the Caps.
Trotz on Laich: Barry Trotz said Brooks Laich’s return to Verizon Center will be similar to his first visit to Nashville after spending 17 years there.
“This will be very emotional for Brooks,” Trotz said. “He had a big footprint in the community, on our team and he has a lot of friendships. I went through that last year in Nashville. It will be very awkward for him. When he gets out of town he’ll be exhausted. I’ll tell you that from experience.”
Carrick returns: While Brooks Laich draws most of the attention tonight, the Leafs will have defenseman Connor Carrick in the lineup. At 21, he is one of eight players on the Leafs roster that is 23 or younger.
Starting fast: The Caps have allowed the first goal in seven of their last nine games and did not record a shot against the Penguins Tuesday night until the 8:52 mark of the opening period.
“I want them to set the tone and we haven’t,” Trotz said. “I think we’re in a little bit of a funk in terms of where we are in the standings. After 10 minutes of that game last night we couldn’t make two passes.”
The Caps have outscored opponents 82-49 in third periods this season, the best third-period goal differential in the NHL.
Special teams: The Caps rank first in the NHL on the power play (23.8 percent). The Leafs rank 30th (14.4) percent.
Where they stand: The Caps are coming off Tuesday night’s come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are 2-2-0 in their last four games and 6-2-0 in their last eight. The Leafs have lost two straight and nine of their last 11. The Caps are 2-0 against the Leafs this season. The Caps are 17-3-1 in back-to-back sets this season.
Milestone watch: Marcus Johansson will be playing in his 400th NHL game, all with the Capitals. Trotz is one win shy of passing Ron Wilson (648) for ninth on the NHL’s all-time wins list.
Projected rosters for tonight:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik (No. 26) - Mike Richards - Jay Beagle
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov
Taylor Chorney - Mike Weber
Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby
Injured: John Carlson (lower body)
Scratched: Nate Schmidt, Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Nikita Soshnikov
Michael Grabner - William Nylander - Zach Hyman
Colin Greening – Brooks Laich - Ben Smith
Kasperi Kapanen - Peter Holland - Brad Boyes
Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado
Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick
Jonathan Bernier (starter) - Garret Sparks
Scratched: Byron Froese, PA Parenteau
Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Joffrey Lupul (middle body), James van Riemsdyk (foot fracture), Jared Cowen (hip tightness), Tyler Bozak (upper body), Milan Michalek (upper body)