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6 things to know for Capitals-Kings: Backstrom back?

6 things to know for Capitals-Kings: Backstrom back?

The Capitals (20-4-5) continue their four-game road trip with a game against the Los Angeles Kings (11-15-2). Catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps Pregame Live starting at 9:30 p.m. Puck drop is at 10 p.m. tonight. Then hang with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live. 

Here’s what you need to know for Wednesday’s game: 

The Capitals are on fire – again

Washington has won four in a row, including the first two of this four-game road trip with 5-2 victories in Detroit and San Jose. They are pulling away from the rest of the Metropolitan Division at 45 points. That gives the Capitals a seven-point lead now on the Islanders, eight on the Flyers, 12 on the Hurricanes and 13 on the Penguins. It’s still early with 53 games to go, but they’ve at least put themselves in good position to win a fifth consecutive division title.

...The Kings are not

An NHL dynasty earlier this decade, hard times have hit in Los Angeles. The Kings had the worst record in the Western Conference last season and have the lowest point total (24) this season, too. They’ve tread water recently with a 3-4-1 record in their past seven games and they did beat the Islanders 4-1 at Staples Center on Nov. 27. They are also the more rested team with an off day on Tuesday while the Capitals were up the coast in San Jose. But Los Angeles is on pace to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth time in six years.  

Backstrom return?

Caps coach Todd Reirdan won’t talk to the media until 7:45 p.m. EST tonight and there’s no morning skate so we won’t know if center Nicklas Backstrom will play after missing six games with an upper body injury. There’s no need to rush him back into the lineup. Backstrom himself told reporters in San Jose that the team is taking it slow. He has four goals and 14 assists in 23 games. 

Gudas status

Another question for Reirden after defenseman Radko Gudas took the butt end of a stick from San Jose forward Evander Kane, who was hit with a major penalty, ejected and earned the maximum fine. Gudas looked wobbly on the ice and didn’t return for the final five minutes. But a source told our Rob Carlin that all defensemen were at practice for AHL Hershey on Wednesday morning. So it doesn’t appear anyone flew out to California last minute just in case. 

That’s either good news for Gudas or the Capitals have some other plan to get through the Kings game. They are not carrying an extra defenseman. If Gudas couldn’t go they would either rotate five or use a forward back there.  

Special teams

Could be the difference tonight. The Capitals have the NHL’s fifth-best power play (24.7%) and the Kings rank 29th(11.6%). Washington is 12thon the penalty kill (83%). Los Angeles is 28th(74.7%). Caps did a good job not taking any penalties against the Sharks on Tuesday. 

Probable lines and defensive pairs

Again, no morning skate so let’s go with what was in place Tuesday at San Jose. 

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin – Travis Boyd – Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny – John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov – Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler – Radko Gudas

Backup goalie Ilya Samsonov starts in place of Braden Holtby on the back-to-back. 

If Backstrom does return that’s a pretty easy fix. Plug him in on the second line, as usual, between Vrana and Oshie. Eller drops to the third line with Hagelin and Panik (been a while since we’ve seen that group together) and Travis Boyd is the hard-luck scratch. He’s been playing well. A Backstrom return would mean the full complement of forwards is in place for the first time since mid-October. But if he can’t go, the Caps looked pretty good last night so the status quo works, too. 

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Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin once again was named to one of the NHL's All-Decade teams.

This go-around, Ovechkin was named to the first-team for the All-Decade Team spanning 2010-2019. 

During those 10 seasons, there was no one that totaled more than Ovi's 437 goals. Only two others had more than his 730 points.

Through our eyes, we saw him mature from a unique superstar to a once-in-a-generation athlete. Ovechkin won his first Stanley Cup in the decade after years of heartbreak and dominant Capitals teams that could never escape the second round. 

Now, he's a mere eight goals away from reaching 700 and further etching his name in the fabric of the sport. 

He is joined with fellow forward Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Drew Doughty of the Kings and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights rounded out the six-player first team. 

NHL ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

Alex Ovechkin - F - Capitals
Patrick Kane - F - Blackhawks
Sidney Crosby - C - Penguins
Duncan Keith - D - Blackhawks
Drew Doughty - D - Kings
Marc-Andre Fleury - G- Golden Knights

NHL ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

Evgeni Malkin - F - Penguins
Patrice Bergeron - F - Bruins
Steven Stamkos - F - Lightning
Erik Karlsson - D - Sharks
Zdeno Chara - D - Bruins
Henrik Lundqvist - G - Rangers

The Great 8 was also named to the All-Decade team in 2000-10. Only Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby, named to the second team for the last decade, received the recognition last decade as well. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Capitals vs. Canadiens: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals vs. Canadiens: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

The last time the Capitals faced the Canadiens, Montreal rode a four-goal second period en route to a 5-2 win that snapped a 13-point streak that Washington had enjoyed for over a month.

With a three-game point streak built up heading into play Monday, the Capitals will once again be hoping to preserve a run of excellence.

Here's everything you need to know before puck drop.

CAPITALS vs. CANADIENS: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec

When: Thursday, January 27, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Devils game on NBC Sports Washington live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-CANADIENS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Devils

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS-CANADIENS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: None

Canadiens: Joel Teasdale (knee/OUT), Paul Byron (knee/day-to-day), Jonathan Drouin (wrist/day-to-day)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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