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With history back on their side against Stars, Capitals hungry to snap two-game skid

With history back on their side against Stars, Capitals hungry to snap two-game skid

The Capitals look to snap their first losing streak in a month when they play the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena on Friday (8 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Washington (24-12-3) remains in first place in the Metropolitan Division, but has lost two in a row to Nashville and St. Louis. The Capitals have not had a three-game losing streak in regulation since March, 2017. That streak reached four games and began with a loss to the Stars (21-16-4), who are in third place in the Central Division. 

Erasing History

Dallas has long been a nightmare place to play for the Capitals, where they lost seven of eight games on the road against the Stars from 2002 to 2016. That has changed recently with 4-3 overtime wins in consecutive years. Andre Burakovsky scored twice in last year’s game at American Airlines Arena, including the game winner in overtime. 

Power outage

This is now becoming a concern. The Caps have as much talent as anyone on their top power-play unit, but if you can’t enter the zone cleanly then you can’t set it up. They have one power-play goal in eight games and it’s stressing their goaltending and five-on-five play, which have both been solid. Washington is 1-for-24 since Dec. 15. The unit is still ranked 10th in the NHL (22.7 percent). 

Milestones

Alex Ovechkin became one of two players in NHL history to record 30 goals in each of his first 14 seasons when he scored against St. Louis in a 5-2 loss on Thursday. Against the Stars, he will set a career high by playing in his 204th consecutive game.

That streak will end soon, however. Ovechkin will be suspended one regular-season game for declining to attend the All-Star game in San Jose on Jan. 26.

Meanwhile, Evgeny Kuznetsov needs one assist to reach 300 points for his career. He will become the 300th Capitals player to reach that mark.  

Lineup changes

Look for Pheonix Copley in goal in the second of a back-to-back after Braden Holtby started in the loss to St. Louis last night. In his last five starts Copley is 5-0 with a .936 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average. The Caps did not have a morning skate Friday, but maybe they will hold out defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has played the past two games after returning from knee surgery but at age 38 probably doesn’t need to play in a back-to-back situation. 

Dallas captain Jamie Benn (17 goals, 15 assists), its third-leading scorer, will not play. He sustained an upper-body injury against New Jersey on Wednesday. Backup goalie Anton Khudobin (.920 save percentage) starts in goal for the Stars. 

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What Caps players have been up to during COVID-19 hiatus from play

What Caps players have been up to during COVID-19 hiatus from play

Tuesday's outline for the league’s return to play means it is time for the players to start planning a return to the Washington area for the eventual resumption of the season. But getting all the players back to Washington is going to take some time given how they are all over the globe. Here’s a look at how a number of Caps’ players have been spending the pause in the season. 

Nicklas Backstrom became a father of three with the birth of his daughter, Alizee in April.

Travis Boyd may have gotten the best present ever as his long-time girlfriend, Kelsey DeGonda, hired artist Taylor Kamp Olson to paint Boyd hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Brenden Dillon initially spent the first few weeks of the pause in a hotel in Arlington, but eventually returned to his home in San Jose. It was there he apparently discovered Tik Tok.

Braden Holtby and his family have stayed in Virginia throughout the pause. He has kept himself busy doing things like saving a kitten on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Lars Eller donated a “Health Cleanse Portal” to the Central Union Mission homeless shelter near Union Station. He detailed why this was important to him in an episode of the Capitals Talk Podcast.

Nick Jensen became a father right after the season paused as he and his wife welcomed their first child, Lorenzo, on St. Patrick’s Day.

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Enzos ready in case the season starts back up 😉

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Ilya Kovalchuk has been finding some pretty unique ways to get a workout in.

T.J. Oshie and his family have been among the bigger stars of the NHL’s pause. First, Oshie became a father of three with the birth of his son, Campbell. His daughters, Lyla and Leni, gave him a surprise makeover and their McLean home was featured in Architectural Digest.

Alex Ovechkin remained in the area initially working out with his trainer who came into town just before the season was paused. Ovechkin took on Wayne Gretzky on NHL 20 for charity where both agreed to an eventual tie. He then flew his family to Miami where he continues to work preparing for the return to the season.

Jonas Siegenthaler returned to his native Switzerland. From there, he and Jakub Vrana, who had returned to the Czech Republic, battled in a cook-off on Twitter.

Tom Wilson went back to his home in Toronto. His dog Halle has been the star of the season’s paws...er...pause.

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I guess I’ll just grow into it 🤷🏼‍♀️

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reveals what the NHL season will look like when it returns

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reveals what the NHL season will look like when it returns

Gary Bettman laid on the league’s return to play plan on Tuesday detailing the format of a 24-team playoff and the draft lottery. There still remains no timetable for a return and there are lots of hurdles and things left to be negotiated, but we now know what the season will look like when it does resume.

As expected, 24 teams will make the playoffs, 12 from each conference according to points percentage. Each conference will play in a designated hub city which have not yet been determined. The top four seeds in both conferences will receive a bye. That includes the Capitals who rank third in the East. Those four teams will play a round-robin against one another to determine seeding. These games will be played by regular season rules.

The bye-in series will be best of five and are now set:

Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia will receive byes.

No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Montreal
No. 6 Carolina vs. No. 11 New York Rangers
No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida
No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus 

St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas will receive byes.

No. 5 Edmonton vs. No. 12 Chicago
No. 6 Nashville vs. No. 11 Arizona
No. 7 Vancouver vs. No. 10 Minnesota
No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 9 Winnipeg

Whether the teams will be reseeded each round or the playoff will be conducted in a bracket is yet to be decided. Bettman also said the Stanley Cup Final and Conference Final will be best of seven series, but it has not been determined the length of series prior to those rounds.

The 2019-20 regular season is officially complete. Bettman said the league hopes for Phase 2, players returning to team facilities for voluntary training, to begin in early June. Phase 3, training camps, will most likely begin sometime in July. Bettman would not give a timetable for Phase 4, the resumption of the season.

Bettman made clear that, despite this announcement, the NHL would not return until government and medical authorities authorize it.

In addition, the NHL announced it plans to hold the draft lottery on June 26. The draft lottery will consist of the seven teams that did not reach the playoffs plus the eight teams that lose in the buy-in round. Three teams will be drawn to determine the first, second and third picks.

The draft lottery will take place before those final eight teams are determined.

Because of that, if a buy-in team is selected for any of those three picks, there will be a second draft lottery in which every one of those final eight teams will be given equal odds to be selected for the given pick.

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