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Caps at Avalanche: Can Washington rebound in the Rocky Mountains from a rocky stretch?

Caps at Avalanche: Can Washington rebound in the Rocky Mountains from a rocky stretch?

The Capitals (36-15-5) head west for a three-game road trip starting with a Thursday game against the Colorado Avalanche (33-16-6).

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for the game and all pregame and postgame action.

Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Capitals Faceoff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 9 p.m. bringing you up to the 9:30 p.m. game broadcast. Stick with NBC Sports Washington for postgame coverage with Capitals Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here's what you need to know for Thursday's game.

The quest for 700 continues!

With no goals in his last two games, Alex Ovechkin remains two shy of 700. A hat trick against the Los Angeles Kings gave him two opportunities to get there in Washington, but it was not to be. Now he will look to reach the milestone on the road starting with this game in Colorado.

When Ovechkin does get there, no one will be more relieved than him. Clearly, he is tired of talking about it.

Kuznetsov is out

Evgeny Kuznetsov will not play Thursday due to an upper-body injury he suffered in Monday's game.

Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after taking an awkward hit from New York Islanders forward Leo Komarov into the boards. Kuznetsov did not skate in practice Tuesday or Wednesday and was declared out after Wednesday's practice. The good news is that Kuznetsov is on the trip, meaning there's a chance he could return for either Saturday's game in Arizona or Monday's game in Vegas. The team is scheduled to be off on Friday, so we will not know until Saturday's morning skate if Kuznetsov will be back for that game.

With Kuznetsov out on Thursday, Lars Eller will move into his spot on the second line and Travis Boyd will come in to center the third.

Here are the expected lines based on Wednesday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - 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

Colorado will be without forward Nazem Kadri who was declared out indefinitely on Tuesday with a lower-body injury.

Bare bones

As the Caps head out west, Kuznetsov will be the only spare player they are bringing with them. With the team looking to bank as much space as possible before the trade deadline, it appears that the Caps will not be making any recalls from Hershey for the upcoming road trip. That means they have no spare defensemen and, until Kuznetsov is ready to return, no spare forwards.

Keep your fingers crossed no one gets sick or injured prior to Thursday's game because it will essentially mean the team will have to play without a full lineup.

When last we met

Washington last played Colorado on October 14 in a game at Captial One Arena.  Braden Holtby allowed three goals on the first three shots he faced before getting pulled. The Caps tried to rally, but came up short in a 6-3 loss.

You can read the game column here.

Hello, old friend

Former Capitals player Andre Burakovsky seems to be fitting in well with his new team. He ranks third on the Avalanche in points with 41 (17 goals, 24 assists) in 52 games.

It's not a surprise to see him doing well as talent was never an issue, but with no top-six roles opening up any time soon, Burakovsky was never going to be in Washington what he is now in Colorado.

Wilson told the media Wednesday that he will meet up with Burakovsky in Colorado, but that he hopes Burakovsky doesn't plan on cooking.

Philipp Grubauer is also the No. 1 goalie for the Avalanche and boasts a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage on the season. He is coming off a shutout win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

Star-studded

There aren't many teams that boast as much star talent as the Caps, but Colorado is definitely one of them. Nathan MacKinnon ranks fourth in the NHL in points with 78 and has a legitimate Hart Trophy case considering the injuries the Avalanche have had to deal with this season. He centers arguably the best line in hockey with Gabriel Landeskog on his left and Mikko Rantanen on his right. On the blue line, Cale Makar is one of the frontrunners for the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. The 21-year-old defenseman ranks second on the team with 42 points.

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Watch T.J. Oshie teach his daughter Lyla how to ride a bike

Watch T.J. Oshie teach his daughter Lyla how to ride a bike

Despite the circumstances, the past few weeks have been an exciting time for the Oshie family.

Just over two weeks ago, Capitals forward T.J. Oshie and his wife, Lauren, welcomed their third child into the world, Campbell.

But on Sunday, it was the couple's oldest child, Lyla, that stole the show.

Lyla, who just turned six last month, accomplished something that she will remember for years to come: learning how to ride a bike.  

How adorable is that?

As Lyla bikes up the driveway, T.J. is a step behind her, making sure she doesn't fall. The Caps winger had an ear-to-ear grin on his face, such a proud dad.

With the NHL season on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, hopefully more Papa Oshie content comes as a result.

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Braden Holtby sets franchise record for shutouts in blowout simulation win over Panthers

Braden Holtby sets franchise record for shutouts in blowout simulation win over Panthers

The Capitals got plenty of offense in the latest NHL 20 simulation, but they didn't need it as Braden Holtby turned aside 36 shots to become the team's all-time shutout leader in a  5-0 blowout of the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Result: Caps 5, Panthers 0

1st period

1-0 Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

2nd period

2-0 Caps goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Nick Jensen and T.J. Oshie

3-0 Caps goal (power play): Jakub Vrana from T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom

https://twitter.com/NBCSCapitals/status/1246580242438815745?s=20               

3rd period

4-0 Caps goal: Brenden Dillon from Evgeny Kuznetsov

5-0 Caps goal: Tom Wilson from Alex Ovechkin and Brenden Dillon

How the Caps won

1. Fast start

What kind of a game was this going to be? We found in just 61 seconds as Kuznetsov wasted no time to get the Caps the lead. Washington would lead the rest of the way.

Carlson charged the blue line to keep a loose puck from getting out of the zone. He passed it up to Ovechkin who made a quick backhand pass to Kuznetsov in the slot to score the goal.

2. Possession

Florida somehow recorded 36 shots on goal, but did they ever really have possession of the puck in this game? It didn't feel like it. The Panthers had trouble defending against the Caps' offense as they struggled to keep the puck out of the defensive zone and struggled to get it out once it got there.

Florida also had no answer for Washington's physicality. The Caps threw their bodies around all game long to separate the Panthers from the puck and Florida just took it.

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3. A long-awaited shutout

It's been a long time coming. Holtby had not recorded a shutout all season long and finally got one in the final game of the regular season with 36 saves. The shutout is the 36th of Holtby's career, which gives Holtby the most in franchise history, moving him one ahead of Olie Kolzig. Or it would have of course if it was not a simulation.

In the few opportunities in which Florida did manage to keep the puck long enough to set up its offense, Holtby was there and gave the Panthers no daylight with which to shoot on. 

Next game

This was the final game of the regular season. Check back with NBC Sports Washington for a simulated playoff.

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