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Capitals vs. Bruins: 5 keys to the game

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Capitals vs. Bruins: 5 keys to the game

With the Capitals (8-3-0, 16 points) facing the Boston Bruins (6-4-1, 13 points) tonight at Verizon Center (6:30 pregame, CSN), here are our five keys to the game:

Can Caps’ top pair rebound? In Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Rangers in New York, the Caps’ top defense pairing of Brooks Orpik (minus-4) and John Carlson (minus-3) struggled to contain the Ranfers’ speed.

They’ll have their hands full tonight with forwards David Krejci (7-8-15), Louis Eriksson (4-7-11) and Patrice Bergeron (4-7-11).  

“They’re good pros,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re going to be fine. It’s just one of those nights you’re going to have. It was our first road loss and we’ve got to go home and make home a real tough place to play.”

Will Holtby allow a goal?: Least season Braden Holtby became the first goalie in Caps history and just the second goalie in post-expansion (1967) to shut out the Bruins three straight times in the same season.

Holtby is 7-2-0 in his career against the Bruins with three shutouts, a 1.58 GAA and .953 save percentage. He’s expected to oppose Tuukka Rask (3-4-1, 3.51 GAA, .876 SP).

The Bruins have been lighting it up this season. They rank third in the NHL in goals (42) and but have not scored against the Caps since March 29, 2014 in a 4-2 win over the Caps.

Will the mitts hit the ice? The Caps are one of just four teams without a fighting major this season, but the Caps and Bruins got into four fights in their final preseason showdown back on Oct. 2. In that game, Tom Wilson and Kevin Millar dropped the gloves twice. Wilson has not fought since. Both players are in tonight’s lineup.

That Oct. 2 slugfest also featured a brief fight between Bruins defenseman Adam Mc Quaid and Caps right wing T.J. Oshie. After the game McQuaid said he tried to ease up a bit on Oshie, who skated away with a black eye.

Center Michael Latta will be in the lineup for the Caps so look for him to be itching to throw some fists.   

Clash of the power plays: The Bruins (34.2 percent) own the NHL’s top-ranked power play on the strength of Bergeron (4 goals, 3 assists) and Krejci (2 goals, 5 assists). The Caps (22.6 percent) rank seventh in the NHL on the man-advantage but have not scored a power-play goal in four games (0-for-9).

Big Z vs. Big O: There may be no better one-on-one showdown than Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) facing Caps left winger Alex Ovechkin (6-foot-3, 239 pounds). The two went toe-to-toe during the 2012 playoffs in an epic seven-game battle.

Trotz likes telling the story of trying to get away from that matchup and Ovechkin telling him he wants to face the best. In 36 career games against the Bruins Ovechkin has 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points.

Here are projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Andre Burakovsky

Brooks LaichMichael Latta - Tom Wilson

Defense pairs

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov - Nate Schmidt

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Scratches: Chandler StephensonStanislav GalievTaylor Chorney

BRUINS

Forward lines

Alex Khokhlachev - David Krejci - Loui Eriksson

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Brett Connolly

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Jimmy Hayes

Zac Rinaldo - Joonas Kemppainen - Tyler Randell

Defense pairs

Zdeno Chara - Kevan Miller

Joe Morrow - Adam McQuaid

Torey Krug - Colin Miller

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask (starter) - Jonas Gustavsson

Injured: Chris Kelly (broken leg), David Pastrnak (foot), Dennis Seidenberg (back surgery)

Scratches: Zach TrotmanMax Talbot

MORE CAPITALS: Latta looks to make his mark as Trotz shuffles fourth line

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.