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