Evgeny Kuznetsov

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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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Todd Reirden unsure if Kuznetsov will travel on upcoming road trip

Todd Reirden unsure if Kuznetsov will travel on upcoming road trip

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Evgeny Kuznetsov left Monday's game against the New York Islanders with an upper-body injury after getting hit awkwardly into the boards by Leo Komarov.

The Capitals are calling the injury only day-to-day, but the injury is at least severe enough that there is some doubt as to whether Kuznetsov will travel with the team on its upcoming three-game road trip.

“He’s day-to-day, so we’ll see how he is tomorrow and what direction we’re going to go with him,” Todd Reirden said after Tuesday's practice.

When asked if Kuznetsov would travel with the team, Reirden was noncommital. "We’ll see how the rest of today goes and tomorrow and I’ll talk to the trainers in the morning," he said.

RELATED: ELLER CALLS OUT CAPS' EFFORT AFTER LOSS TO ISLANDERS

The Caps will play in Colorado on Thursday, Arizona on Saturday and Vegas on Monday. If Kuznetsov does not travel with the team, he will miss all three games.

If Kuznetsov cannot play, Lars Eller will take his spot on the second line and Travis Boyd will center the third.

Kuznetsov missed the first three games of the season due to suspension but has played every game since racking up 19 goals and 27 assists. His absence is about the last thing the Caps need right now in the midst of a slump. Since returning from the all-star break, Washington is 3-4-0. They have lost two straight by a combined score of 13-5 and lost three out of four games in their four-game homestand.

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Alex Ovechkin and Capitals teammates re-live The Goal

ovechkin-2019-usat.jpg
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Alex Ovechkin and Capitals teammates re-live The Goal

Sometimes hockey players are fans, too.

On the eve of Alex Ovechkin scoring his 700th career goal – he will become only the eighth player in NHL history to do so – Capitals Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov sat with their longtime teammate to watch some of Ovechkin’s greatest goals.

Hosted by NBC Sports Washington play-by-play broadcaster Joe Beninati in the video room at MedStar Iceplex, the group gathered to watch Ovechkin’s greatest individual moments.

The Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Capital One Arena with Ovechkin sitting on 698 career goals. The game can be seen on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.

Backstrom and Kuznetsov’s reactions ranged from gleeful laughter to silent awe. And these are players who were on the ice for many of these great moments. There was, of course, The Goal – Ovechkin’s most famous tally in a 2006 game against the Arizona Coyotes.

“When I saw it, I was just stunned,” said Backstrom, who had been drafted by the Capitals but was still playing in Sweden. “People were talking about it like it was the nicest goal of all time.”"

"I don’t think I ever see somebody try to do that,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s pretty much impossible.”

Wayne Gretzky was the Coyotes’ coach at the time. The NHL’s all-time leading scorer – who’s goal record of 894 Ovechkin is now chasing – looked up at the scoreboard to see a replay of the goal and could only blink in astonishment.

Ovechkin admitted that when the Capitals returned from their road trip, he and teammates Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and Chris Clark spent time after practice trying to recreate The Goal.

“I’d miss the puck or I’d hit the net with my neck,” Ovechkin joked. “But it was a pretty goal, especially back then. It’s just an automatic reaction. I couldn’t even see where the net was. I fell. I looked at the goalie. If I hit it, I hit it. If not…”

Ovechkin did hit it and left NHL fans, including his future teammates, with a lasting memory.

 

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