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Can the Caps reclaim first place in New York?

Can the Caps reclaim first place in New York?

The Caps take on the New York Rangers on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Washington) with a chance to reclaim first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here’s what you need to watch when these two rivals meet in New York.

Battle of the backups…maybe

Both the Caps and Rangers played on Friday and both used their top netminders so it would stand to reason that we could see both teams go with their backups for Saturday’s game.

Pheonix Copley has a record of 7-4-2 this season with a .899 save percentage and 3.07 GAA. He played admirably in place of Holtby while he was dealing with an upper-body injury and really cemented himself as the team’s backup. For the Rangers, their backup is the 22-year-old Alexander Georgiev who holds a record of 4-2-0 with a .911 save percentage and 2.94 GAA.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a chance one or both coaches could bring back their starters on Saturday.

Reirden was asked whether or not Copley would start on Saturday prior to Friday’s contest and was very non-committal, saying that was the plan but that he would reevaluate after the game. Rangers head coach David Quinn, meanwhile, elected to play Lundqvist both nights of a back-to-back the last time New York faced the Caps on the second leg on Oct. 17.

It should be Copley vs. Georgiev, it probably will be Copley vs. Georgiev, but it certainly is not out of the realm of possibility that one or both coaches elect to go with their starters, both of whom have been playing very well of late.

The Tom Wilson return tour continues

Wilson has been an absolute beast since his return from suspension. Most notably has been his offense as he has been producing at over a point per game pace. In just six games, Wilson already has three goals and eight points. That more points than other forward who have been available all season such as Andre Burakovsky, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Nic Dowd and Dmitrij Jaskin.

The Caps get a noticeable boost in energy whenever Wilson is on the ice. Until he cools down, he is someone you have to keep an eye on because he makes an impact in every aspect of the game whether it be even strength, on the power play or the penalty kill and both offensively and defensively.

Home ice advantage

This year was supposed to be a wash for the Rangers who are in the midst of a rebuild, but New York is surpassing everyone’s expectations with how well they have played thus far, particularly at home.

The Rangers are in the midst of a seven-game win streak at Madison Square Garden and are 9-3-0 overall at home this season.

The Caps have been fairly average on the road at 5-4-1, but have won three of their last four and enter Saturday’s game on a four-game win streak overall.

A battle for first place

The Caps currently sit in second place of the Metropolitan Division with 27 points, just one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. A win Saturday would obviously vault them over Columbus for first place. An overtime or shootout loss would pull the Caps into a tie, but the Blue Jackets would retain first place with one more regulation or overtime win over Washington (12-11).

Should New York beat the Caps in regulation, the Rangers would vault over Washington for second place, pushing the Caps down to third.

It’s only November so we should not look too much into the standings, but it is always a confidence boost for a team to say it’s in first place. When your opponent has a chance to vault you in the standings with a win, it also could add just a bit of juice to what would otherwise be a regular November matinee game.

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Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson's two-point night including the shorthanded game-winner as the Capitals held on for a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday. The win was Washington's third on their six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday in Buffalo.

Here are four reasons Washington won.

1. Braden Holtby’s first period

After the first period, it looked like we were going to have a goalie duel. Frederik Andersen looked absolutely brilliant to start and the Caps needed Holtby to be equally brilliant to keep Washington in it. He was.

Holtby made 12 of his 40 saves in the opening frame, including an absolute beauty to rob Patrick Marleau. Andersen robbed Michal Kempny and Nicklas Backstrom on one end of the ice and Toronto picked up the puck off the rebound for a quick 2-on-1 counter. Kasperi Kapanen fed Marleau beautifully, but Holtby stretched out to make the spectacular save with the blocker. A few minutes later, Holtby made a quick pad save on a William Nylander backhand, then recovered just in time to deny Connor Brown on the rebound attempt.

Because of Holtby’s efforts, both teams went to the locker room locked in a 0-0 tie.

2. Alex Ovechkin draws a penalty, scores the power play goal

Morgan Rielly does not take many penalties. Heading into Thursday’s game, Rielly had taken only two minor penalties all season, which is pretty remarkable when you think about a top defenseman averaging 22:43 of ice time per game.

In the second period, however, Ovechkin managed to draw a hold on Rielly. When you get a team’s top defenseman in the box, you need to take advantage. The Caps did just that off a quick play off a faceoff.

T.J. Oshie won the draw back to John Carlson. As soon as the draw was taken, Ovechkin backed away towards the top of the opposite faceoff circle. Toronto was slow to setup the defense, so when Carlson fed Ovechkin for the one-timer, he had an open shooting lane on net. Ovechkin delivered a fadeaway one-timer from above the circle and beat Andersen glove side.

3. A key forecheck by Tom Wilson

Brett Connolly made a nice play in front of the net to deke around the stretched pad of Andersen and backhand the puck into the open goal. Wilson made that play happen, however, with a great forecheck.

Jake Gardiner went to recover the puck behind the goal line in the defensive zone, but Wilson came streaking in like a freight train and knocked Gardiner off the puck. Lars Eller pounced on the loose puck and fed Connolly in front of the net. He did the rest.

4. The Tom Wilson shorthanded exclamation point

Washington carried a 2-0 lead into the third period and looked to be the better team, but a goal form Andreas Johnsson put the Maple Leafs right back in it. The ice was definitely tilting in Toronto’s favor and less than 90 seconds after Johnsson scored, John Carlson took a hooking penalty.

With the game on the line, however, the penalty kill delivered.

Holtby made a kick-out save and two Leafs went after the rebound, but Brooks Orpik made a key stick lift on Mitch Marner and Eller beat Johnsson to the puck and had a lane for the breakout. Wilson turned on the jets and hustled out of the zone to try to catch up with Eller for the 2-on-1. He got there just in time and Eller delivered the pass to him just past the blue line. Wilson took aim and fired a wrister past Andersen to end any hopes for a comeback.

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Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

To watch the entire video, click "play" in the video player above.

Capitals fan Greg Christian and his late wife, Dona, made a plan to watch their favorite team at every NHL arena. Greg finally achieved that goal.

Gred attended the Caps' tilt with the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 23, taking with him a picture of Dona sporting a Hockey Fights Cancer jersey.

Greg and his wife were long-time Caps fans, and spent road trips talking about hockey and sports. They were soon inspired to follow the Caps on the road and make it to every possible venue to watch them play.

However, those plans would be interrupted in April 2017, when Dona was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The two made it to 34 NHL venues together before she passed away in November, last taking in a Caps game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, according to the Washington Post.

The two have now seen Washington play at 36 venues, including two past arenas and three stadiums. And once Seattle gets an NHL franchise, Greg told WUSA9 he plans to be in attendance.

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