The All-Star break has come and gone which means its back to work for Washington. The Caps have played in only one game since Jan. 19 and now have 35 left to go in the remaining 10 weeks of the season.
Barring another blizzard, there won't be any more extended breaks for the Caps.
With a 15-point lead in the division and a nine point lead in the conference, Washington is in very good shape in terms of playoff positioning. So what's the goal for the final few weeks of the season? Stay healthy and stay hungry.
The extended break gave Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Jay Beagle extra time to rest. Ovechkin sat out of the All-Star Game with a nagging lower-body injury. He has been playing through it, but it's something the Caps will have to manage down the stretch. They need their captain at or near 100 percent for the postseason.
The Caps are loaded at forward and the return of Beagle will add another body to that mix, so the players to watch in February are Carlson and Orpik. Their health will likely determine what the Caps do at the trade deadline. Will the Caps add a depth player to their blue line or is Orpik's injury serious enough that general manager Brian MacLellan makes a splashy move? Sure, the Caps continue winning without him, but the postseason is a very different animal than the regular season.
Head coach Barry Trotz will also have to keep a close eye on Braden Holtby. Holtby is a goalie who likes to play as many games as possible, but with Philipp Grubauer having a solid year and the team so far ahead in the standings, Holtby doesn't need to play every night. Trotz will have to find that balance between giving Holtby enough work to stay in rhythm without getting worn out.
The Caps may have established themselves as the top team through the All-Star break, but it's all about how they finish in the playoffs.