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Caps prefer D.C. despite record


Caps prefer D.C. despite record

With their split in New York, the Capitals gained home-ice advantage on the Rangers in what is now a best-of-five second-round playoff series.

Whats it mean? Probably not much.

The Caps are 4-2 on the road in these playoffs and 1-2 at home. This despite going 16-21-4 on the road in the regular season and 26-11-4 at the Verizon Center.

Wed rather play at home 10 times out of 10, defenseman John Carlson said as the Caps prepare for tonights 7:30 game at the Phone Booth.

Thats still where we play our best hockey, Alzner said. Itll be nice to get the crowd behind us. Our confidence is high right now.

The Caps actually played better on the road than they did at home down the stretch. After Feb. 25 they went 10-5-1 in their final 16 road games and 6-3-2 at home.

Maybe you try to do too much at home and it leads to their chances, Jason Chimera said. Maybe we need to take that road mentality home.

The Caps road mentality is to play a safe, simple, low-risk game of dump and chase. That game is easier to play on the road, where there is no pressure to excite the home crowd with the end-to-end-rushes that was once a signature characteristic of the Capitals.

I know the home crowd wants some flash and dazzle, Troy Brouwer said, but we need to keep it simple and play a solid game.

Keep out, player napping: This time of year hockey players are so routine-oriented that simple chores around the house are often left undone.

You cut off a few more distractions out of your life, said Mike Knuble, who has three children. This time of year its pretty much just sleeping and playing. People kind of know to stay away from you. You kind of stay in your own bubble.

Knuble said that when the team returned home after four days in New York his lawn needed to be mowed and his 11-year-old son volunteered to cut it.

I might have to encourage it, he said.

Hitting the airwaves: The Capitals were busy talking hockey even before hitting the ice today.

Defenseman Karl Alzner was up bright and early talking Caps-Rangers at 8:30 with Elliot in the Morning on DC 101.1 FM. At 8:45 right wing Mike Knuble hopped on with The Sports Junkies, The Fan 106.7 FM, and at 8:50 Jason Chimera was speed talking on WTOP 103.5 FM.

Later today at 2:45 p.m. Comcast SportsNet analyst Alan May will be talking hockey on ESPN 980 AM, then previewing tonights game at 4:30 p.m. on the same station.

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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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