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Caps can clinch division against struggling Sens

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Caps can clinch division against struggling Sens

In a season in which nearly every team goal has been reached, the Capitals can check yet another off their list when they take on the Ottawa Senators tonight at Canadian Tire Centre (7 p.m., Pregame Live, CSN).

With a victory tonight the Capitals (51-15-5, 107 points) can clinch the Metropolitan Division title and secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Senators, on the other hand, are a team could be torn apart this summer.

With a 34-31-8 record, the Sens are seven points out of a playoff spot and their outspoken owner, Eugeyn Melnyk, told reporters today that “no one is safe” when it comes to offseason changes. And that includes head coach Dave Cameron.

“We're grooming people; we're looking," Melnyk said. "I think after the season is done, you'll see fallouts everywhere. There's going to be a lot of changes in the NHL with coaches and general managers, but right now I leave it to (general manager) Bryan (Murray).

"I think every single aspect of the team is under the microscope right now."

The Capitals have had a playoff spot wrapped up since March 15 and need just one victory in their final 11 games to grab home ice in the playoffs. There are, however, a few individual milestones that could still be in their grasp.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is expected to start tonight against the Sens, will be seeking his 44th victory of the season, which would leave him four shy of matching Marty Brodeur’s single-season record of 48 wins. Holtby is expected to start eight of the Caps’ final 11 games, so that would give him eight tries to get five or more wins.

“He set a franchise record (with 42 wins), he made the (Canadian) World Cup team and a lot of good things are happening for him,” Caps left wing Jason Chimera said. “So you want to keep those good times rolling for him.

“You want to keep that good feeling for him in the playoffs because when it comes playoffs he’s our most important player. When he’s feeling it there’s no better goaltender in the league.”

While Holtby looks to chase down Brodeur’s record, Alex Ovechkin will need to go on a scoring binge to get to 50 for the seventh time in his career. Ovechkin (42 goals) has just one goal in his last eight games and his lead over Chicago’s Patrick Kane (39) has been reduced to three.    

“We’ve had a great season so far and a lot of guys have had some great individual statistics because of it,” said Caps right wing Justin Williams, who is expected to play alongside Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the Caps’ top line tonight . “If you ask anybody right now they probably don’t care about it. But when you retire and look back at it and see how successful you were in a single season, it’s something you appreciate.

“I think Ovi’s perception has changed a lot in the last four or five years. He’s  the captain of this team and he’s done a lot of things that have made him become a good leader. That’s what a lot of people don’t know. His will to win is as high as the next guy’s.”

RELATED: Why Capitals set unrealistic goal for this season

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!