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Capitals expect big push from Flyers in Game 2


Capitals expect big push from Flyers in Game 2

The Capitals will look to take a 2-0 lead on the Flyers in their first-round playoff series tonight at Verizon Center. You can catch the  game on CSN beginning with our hour-long pregame show beginning at 6 p.m. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

What can we expect?: Several Capitals said they were happy with their 5-on-5 play in Game 1 but expect a big push from the Flyers, who are now focused on getting out of the District with a split.

“You assume they’re going to change a couple things,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “They’re going to want to throw everything at us now. Throw everything at the net and crash hard.”
The Caps held the Flyers to just eight shots in the final two periods of Game 1 and goaltender Braden Holtby said a big reason was the Caps’ ability to slow Philadelphia’s speed.

“They’re very creative, very skilled and they work well with each other off the rush,” said Holtby, who stopped all 19 shots he faced for his third career playoff shutout. “In order to stop that you need that third and fourth guy coming back finding that late guy. We frustrated them on the rush and that takes away a big part of their game.”

Replacing ‘Coots’: With Flyers checking-line center Sean Couturier out for the remainder of the series with an upper body injury following Alex Ovechkin’s shoulder check into the boards, the Flyers are expected to insert Scott Laughton into the lineup.

Laughton, 21, has played in just two games since March 24. He is expected to play on a third line with center Nick Cousins and right wing Matt Read. That would mean the Flyers could go with a second line of San Gagner, center Brayden Schenn and right wing Michael Raffl.

Schenn vs. Richards: Schenn was the most physical player on the ice in Game 1, throwing seven body checks, including a big one on Caps center Mike Richards. The two were traded for each other in the summer of 2011, when Schenn went to the Flyers and Richards went to L.A.

“They were going at it,” Trotz said with a smile.

Schenn said he expects the physicality (56 hits between the two teams) to continue in Game 2.

“I think that’s the way the series is going to be,” Schenn said Friday. “There are some big boys on their side that like to throw their body around but can still play the skill game as well. You’ll get it from their top guys that are throwing the body. Same as our side. That’s the kind of style of hockey we knew it was going to be in this series and Game 1 showed it.”

Crease crashers: The Flyers promised to take away the eyes of Caps goalie Braden Holtby before the series began but the Caps surrendered just eight shots in the final 40 minutes of Game 1.

Holtby said he’s able to see through and around stationary screens but said it’s when players cut through his crease that things can get dicey.

“Today’s rules, you can’t really move a guy out as easily and even when doing that it creates more of a screen because there’s more movement involved,” he said. “My main thing, and our team’s main thing, is to take sticks away. Deflections and second (opportunity) pucks are more what we rely on the D men for. I’m there for the first shot.”

Philly power outage: The Flyers went 0-for-4 on the man-advantage in Game 1. They now have gone five of their last six games without a power play goal and are 3-for-21 during that stretch.

 “For us, we have to get those guys shooting at the top,” Schenn said of the Flyers’ point men. “If they start shooting, then we get a few one-timers and maybe a few lanes open up.”

RELATED: Caps, Flyers sacrificing themselves to block shots

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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