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Caps and Jets have something to prove Sunday in a possible preview of the Stanley Cup Final

Caps and Jets have something to prove Sunday in a possible preview of the Stanley Cup Final

With 14 games remaining in the regular season, there is still plenty left to be decided before the playoffs. But Sunday’s game between the Capitals and Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) presents both teams with an opportunity to send a message with an eye towards the postseason.

The Jets came within one round of playing the Caps in the Stanley Cup Final last season before Winnipeg was defeated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the conference final. Both teams again look poised for another possible lengthy postseason run.

Washington obviously is the defending Stanley Cup champions and seem to be getting hot at the right time again with six straight wins. The additions of Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen at the trade deadline have provided an instant boost to the team and the Caps seem to be rounding into playoff form yet again.

The Jets come to Washington on Sunday as leaders of the Central Division. Blake Wheeler is putting together another monster season with 83 points, good for ninth in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin may lead the league in goals with 46, but Winnipeg still has plenty of offensive weapons with Mark Scheifele who has 32 goals and Patrik Laine who, even in a down year has still managed to hit the back of the net 29 times. Those two have helped the Jets score 3.43 goals per game this season, good for fifth in the NHL and higher than Washington’s 3.38.

If you had any doubts about how good Winnipeg is, check out Friday’s game in which the Jets obliterated the Carolina Hurricanes, one of the hottest teams in the NHL, 8-1.

A win on Sunday would be a strong statement that they remain one of the teams to beat in the West. They also have an easier road through the first two rounds of the playoffs in the Central over the Pacific. It at least seems possible that Sunday’s game could prove to be a preview of this year’s Stanley Cup Final.

Game notes

Rinse, repeat

There are no changes in the lineup for Sunday’s game, but that is no surprise after winning six straight. Should Washington win, it will tie a season-long seven-game streak.

There is just one change to the lineup and it comes between the pipes….

Pheonix Rising

Copley is expected to start Sunday giving him his first start since Feb. 24. This will be the second time Copley has played against the Jets this season as he also started in Winnipeg on Nov. 14. Braden Holtby was expected to get that start but was injured forcing Washington to dress an emergency backup. Copley allowed two goals on 23 shots in the losing effort.

“We had to, at some point, make a decision of when to play Pheonix, and we think that tonight's the right night with the week we have ahead of use as well,” Todd Reirden said. “We're at home, and I hope that our team can play a little bit of a better team game than we did against New Jersey to give him some support. I think it's the right time."

An offensive explosion

The Jets obliterated one of the hottest teams in the NHL on Friday with an 8-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. “That was a pretty impressive performance against a team that’s had a really strong run here and is really distinguishing themselves as being one of the top teams in the East with Carolina,” Todd Reirden said. “That was a statement. If you were wondering how good they were, that was a strong statement.”

Even with Winnipeg’s offensive explosion, however, the Caps are not approaching this game any differently defensively.

“I wouldn’t have even known they scored eight goals,” T.J. Oshie said. “It wasn’t talked about today.”

No time for retribution

Oshie was injured the last time the Caps played the Jets as he was slammed down to the ice by defenseman Josh Morrissey. Morrissey was fined but avoided a suspension for the play. The Jets defenseman is injured and not expected to play on Sunday, but if he had it does not sound like it would have mattered much to Oshie.

“This is the time where your focus has to be on winning and winning a certain way,” Oshie said, “So that will be our main focus. I’ll be around six more years at least so there’s plenty of time if there ever is going to be one to take a shot or try to get even or whatever you want to call it. Right now is the wrong time. Right now we’re trying to get ourselves to a certain point in the standings and we’re trying to get our game to a certain level so that’ll be our main focus.”

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Lars Eller was 'not surprised to see that kind of acting' from Brad Marchand in Tom Wilson scrum

Lars Eller was 'not surprised to see that kind of acting' from Brad Marchand in Tom Wilson scrum

During the first period of Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins, Michal Kempny gave Brad Marchand a little shove following a whistle with 20-seconds left in the frame. Marchand responded with an even greater shove to Kempny's face.

Caps' top line enforcer Tom Wilson came onto the scene immediately, taking exception to Marchand's tiff with Kempny. When Marchand saw Wilson coming after him, he immediately flopped to the ice before Wilson could lay more than an elbow on him. Lucky for Wilson, the referees didn't buy it and neither did anyone on the Caps.

"I'm not surprised to see that kind of acting from him," Lars Eller said of Marchand on The Sports Junkies Monday.

"I think it's good that we back each other up and Tom came over and Marchand...yeah, I don't know what he was doing," Eller said. "He just kind of turtled on the ice there and goes down and Tom barely even touched him."

The Caps came out of Boston with two points, beating the Bruins 3-2 in an overtime shootout victory. They host the Anaheim Ducks Monday night at 7:00 p.m.

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4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Boyd gets a promotion

4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Boyd gets a promotion

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Capitals (15-3-4) saw their point streak snapped on Friday, but rebounded on Saturday with a come-from-behind win in Boston. They will look to stay hot on Monday as they host the Anaheim Ducks (10-9-2). You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live kicking things off at 6 p.m. before Caps Pregame Live begins at 6:30 p.m. to bring you up to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here are four things to know for Monda’s game.

Boyd gets a bump

Travis Boyd's strong play on Saturday did not go unnoticed by the coaches as he was moved up to the third line at Monday's morning skate, switching spots with Garnet Hathaway.

Here are the lines from the skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Travis Boyd
Brendan Leipsic - Chandler Stephenson - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Radko Gudas
Jonas Siegenthaler -  Nick Jensen

Carl Hagelin was on the ice in a non-contact jersey and will miss his sixth-straight game. Nic Dowd was not on the ice. Todd Reirden said both remain day-to-day, but Hagelin was closer to returning than Dowd. When asked, Reirden acknowledged that Dowd's injury was worse than previously believed.

Holtby vs. Gibson

Braden Holtby will get the start for the Caps. Since his "reset" early in the season, he has been lights out with an 8-0-1 record in his last nine starts with a .924 save percentage. 

Backing up Holtby will be Vitek Vanecek. He was recalled on Saturday to take the place of Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek has a lower cap hit and the team needed that space to recall Boyd.

The expected starter for the Ducks will be John Gibson, a netminder who has established himself as one of the league's best in recent years. This season he is 7-9-0 with a .915 save percentage and 2.83 GAA.

Anaheim’s putrid power play

The Caps have taken 83 minors this season already, tied for the second-most in the league. Limiting power play opportunities for the opposition should always be a priority, but even if Washington gets into penalty trouble this is a game where they may be able to get away with it.

Anaheim's power play is clicking at only 9.1-percent, the second-worst power play in the league. Only the Ottawa Senators struggle more to score on the man advantage.

The Caps’ epic collapse

The last time these two teams met in Washington was Dec. 2, 2018. Midway through the second, the Caps held a 5-1 lead and looked like they would be able to coast to the easy blowout victory. The Ducks had other ideas.

Andrew Cogliano sparked the comeback with a goal just 61 seconds after Dowd made it 5-1. Rickard Rakell scored less than a minute after Cogliano and suddenly a three-goal lead did not seem all that insurmountable. Anaheim would go on to score three more goals in the third period, five unanswered in total, as the Ducks stunned the Caps 6-5. Anaheim did all of this in regulation as well so the Caps did not even get a single point to show for their second period 5-1 lead.

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