The Capitals (47-12-4, 98 points) take on backup goaltender Antti Raanta and the New York Rangers tonight at Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN+). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Chasing history: The Capitals are trying to become the seventh team in NHL history to reach 100 points in 64 or fewer games.
Here’s the list, with playoff result:
1976-77 Canadiens - 104 points - Won the Cup
1971-72 Bruins - 103 points - Won the Cup
1970-71 Bruins - 101 – Lost in 1st Round
1975-76 Canadiens – 101 points – Won the Cup
1977-78 Canadiens - 101 points – Won the Cup
1995-96 Red Wings - 100 points - Lost in Conf. Final
Scouting the Rangers: The Caps are 3-1-0 against the Rangers this season and have outscored New York 18-13. Every game has featured a minimum of seven goals. Justin Williams has six goals and three assists in four games against the Rangers, while Alex Ovechkin has five (three on the power play) and Marcus Johansson has three.
The Caps’ power play went 1-for-11 (9 percent) against the Rangers in seven playoff games last year, but has gone 5-for-12 (42 percent) in four games this season.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said the Capitals’ chief concern tonight is handling the Rangers’ speed.
“They’re a quick team, a good forechecking team and you’ve really got to be patient with the way they play,” he said.
Chasing 50: Who will get to 50 first, Alex Ovechkin (41 goals) or Braden Holtby (40 wins)? Both will continue their assaults tonight.
Goalie matchup: The Caps will go with Holtby (40-7-3, 2.22,.923) while the Rangers turn to Antti Raanta (6-4-2, 2.32, .913). The Caps beat Raanta and the Rangers 5-2 in their last meeting.
Off their game? Several Capitals have said they’ve not been at their best in recent weeks, but they’ve still won 12 of their last 15 games.
“You’re not going to have 82 games where you play three good periods,” Backstrom said. “We’re still winning but we know we have to play better if we want to be successful in the playoffs. That’s something we talk about every day.”
As for sending a message to the Rangers, who could be a second-round playoff opponent for the Caps, Backstrom said it’s “absolutely” on the players’ minds.
“Every time you play a team before the playoffs I think it’s good to win and get that confidence from the way you played them last time,” he said. “It’s important.”
No Schmidt: The Caps will be without defenseman Nate Schmidt, who sat out Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Leafs with a lower body injury. Taylor Chorney and Mike Weber will play as a third defense pairing.
"He's fine," Barry Trotz said of Schmidt. "I could see him in the lineup [Saturday]. You're either hurt or injured. Right now he's hurt."
Here are projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Jay Beagle
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov
Mike Weber - Taylor Chorney
Injured: John Carlson (lower body), Nate Schmidt (lower body)
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Jesper Fast
Viktor Stalberg - Eric Staal - Kevin Hayes
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Oscar Lindberg
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein
Dan Boyle - Marc Staal
Injured: Rick Nash (bone bruise), Henrik Lundqvist (neck spasms)
Scratched: Dylan McIlrath