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AAA Keys to the Game: Caps vs. Ducks


AAA Keys to the Game: Caps vs. Ducks

The Capitals (56-17-8, 120 points) face their former coach Bruce Boudreau and the Anaheim Ducks (45-25-11, 101 points) in the final game of the regular season on Sunday at Verizon Center (coverage starting at 7:00 p.m. on CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

When last we met: The Caps snapped the Ducks' 11-game winning streak on March 7 with a shootout win in Anaheim. Ryan Getzlaf scored on the Ducks' first shot of the game just 60 seconds in, but Braden Holtby turned aside the next 27 shots he faced. Andre Burakovsky tied the game in the third period to force the shootout.

What's at stake: For the Caps, nothing but health. They will finish with the top record in the NHL and play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs regardless of the result. Anaheim, however, has a chance to win their division. The Ducks trail Los Angeles by one point in the Pacific. The Kings have the edge in the ROW tiebreaker so the Ducks will need a win over the Caps to capture the division crown.

Snow day: Sunday's game was originally scheduled to be played in Washington on Jan. 22 but was postponed due to the "Snowmageddon" that hit the area that weekend. The NHL season was originally scheduled to end around the league on Saturday but this game was tacked onto the end as well as Philadelphia's game against the Islanders which was also postponed.

RELATED: Williams joins Twitter ahead of NHL playoffs

Health over history: Philipp Grubauer will get the start in net even after Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur's win record on Saturday with 48 wins for the season. Head coach Barry Trotz has been adamant over the past week that Grubauer and Holtby would split the final back-to-back of the season and it appears he will not waver from that decision despite Holtby's chance to make history.

"Why put our player at risk?" Trotz said. "You see a number of players have gone down in their last game around the league. [Holtby] shares a record. I think the bigger plan is about what we want to do as a team. He's too important to put at risk for individual glory so we're not doing that."

1000 for Williams: The Caps will hold a pre-game ceremony to honor Justin Williams. Williams played in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday in St. Louis. NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Jim Gregory will be on hand to present Williams with a commemorative crystal from the NHL, the Caps will present Williams with a silver stick and he will also receive a special gift from his teammates. Williams is the 304th player in NHL history to play 1,000 games.

You can read more about Williams and the celebration here.

When asked how he believe Williams had made it to this point in his career, Trotz said "Staying productive, staying fairly healthy and playing a number of games at a very high level. And obviously he's won some championships which we'd love to do around here."

Beagle update and lineup changes: Jay Beagle left Saturday's game in St. Louis after blocking a puck with his leg/foot. Trotz called him day-to-day and would not elaborate. He also would not specify what the line changes would be for Sunday's game. He did say, however, that "Some guys haven't played, they will play tonight. There will be some changes."

As cryptic as that is, it's hard to put together any projected lines. What this most likely means is that Nate Schmidt, Taylor Chorney, Michael Latta and Stanislav Galiev will all be in the lineup. Earlier Sunday, the Caps also recalled Zach Sill from Hershey though it is unclear if he will play.

MORE HOCKEY: Report: Pavel Datsyuk to return to Russia after this season

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."


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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.