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Caps counting on healthy Johansson, Orpik

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Caps counting on healthy Johansson, Orpik

By sending forward Paul Carey and defenseman Connor Carrick back to the AHL Hershey Bears on Monday, the Caps took a calculated risk heading into their three-game road trip, which begins Tuesday night in Nashville against the Predators.

With forward Marcus Johansson (upper body) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) unlikely to play on Tuesday night, the Caps will have just 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen when they take on the Preds.

That means Stan Galiev is likely to return to the lineup, replacing Carey on the fourth line. Carey scored one very big goal in his two-game stint with the Caps, netting the game-tying goal in Newark to set the stage for Alex Ovechkin’s shootout game-winner.

Carey’s goal is one more than Galiev has scored in 14 games with the Caps this season.

The question moving forward for the Caps is when Johansson and Orpik are ready to return to the lineup. Coach Barry Trotz said he’d like to see both players get through at least one practice before returning. Since Johansson was injured less than two weeks ago, in the game before the All-Star break, he might need just one full-contact practice on Wednesday before returning to the lineup on Thursday night in Minnesota.

Orpik has been sidelined since Nov. 10, so it’s possible Trotz would like to see him skate with the team all this week before getting him back in the lineup when the Caps return from their three-game trip, which concludes Saturday night in Dallas.  

MORE CAPITALS: NHL Power Rankings: Trouble brewing?

Ovi on fire: Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season on Sunday, becoming the third player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in each of his first 11 seasons in the league, joining Mike Gartner (first 15 seasons) and Wayne Gretzky (first 13). Ovechkin is the only player in the NHL to score 30 or more goals in every season since 2005-06. He has four goals in his last six games.

Nisky business: Matt Niskanen’s game-winning goal on Sunday was his first game-winner of the season and the 11th of his career. Niskanen was named the game’s first star and led all skaters in ice time (24:51) and shots (7).

Beastly: Braden Holtby is 25-1-3 in his last 30 appearances with two shutouts, a 2.08 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

Bura-cuda: Andre Burakovsky’s assist extended his career-long point streak to seven games (6 goals, 3 assists). He has earned 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in his last 10 games.

Kuz-tastic: Evgeny Kuznetsov has earned 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) in his last 10 games.

200: Tom Wilson played in his 200th NHL game on Sunday, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to play 200 games before his 22nd birthday, joining Bob Carpenter, Scott Stevens, Gaetan Duchesne and Kevin Hatcher.

Dominant at home: The Capitals have posted a 14-1-1 record in their last 16 games at Verizon Center and have outscored their opponents 61-34 during that span. In addition, Washington is 20-4-2 at home this season and has earned a point in 19 of its last 21 home games (17-2-2).

Back-to-back: The Capitals completed their 10th back-to-back set of the season over the weekend. The Caps are 16-3-1 in back-to-back games this season, outscoring opponents 71-45.

Beasts of the East: The Caps are 30-7-2 against the Eastern Conference this season, ranking first in the NHL in wins against conference opponents. 

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

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NBC Sports Washington

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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. 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 Towes 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. Toews' interception led to a 2-on-0 in the second period. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal. He 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.