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3 bold predictions: Can Caps end their skid against Sabres?

3 bold predictions: Can Caps end their skid against Sabres?

The Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres the day after Thanksgiving. That was the last time they've won. Now Washington will look to end a three-game skid as they host the Sabres again on Monday (7 p.m. on CSN).

Here are three bold predictions for Monday's game:

1. Jack Eichel will record two points

Buffalo managed only one goal the last time these two teams met, but that was without Jack Eichel. With him back in tow, this is a completely different offense. He should expect a heavy dose of Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner, but Eichel is the real deal and has registered four points in his first two games back this season.

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2. The Caps will not score on the power play

That's not really too bold these days considering Washington has only one power play goal in their last 16 opportunities. This would look like a good opportunity to get back on track considering Buffalo has the 29th penalty kill in the NHL (77.2 percent). The Sabres, however, do not take many penalties. Buffalo is ninth in minors taken this year and are 2-1-0 since losing to the Caps. They are not playing frustrated and are less likely to take foolish penalties. With fewer opportunities, the Caps' struggling power play is not likely to return to form.

3. Both teams will take roughing penalties and/or a fight in the third period

Considering that these two teams met last week and will play again on Friday, things will get physical late as both teams will look to send a message. That will result in some extended scrums and pawing, maybe even a fight. But I don't expect either team to really run away with this one, making a late fight unlikely.

MORE CAPITALS: DAILY QUOTE: 'WE NEED TO BE A LITTLE MORE GRITTY'

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Now is the time to be patient with the 3rd line

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: Now is the time to be patient with the 3rd line

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Lisa McKay writes: Would you like to see the 4th line of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathway get a bit more ice time at even strength and the 3rd line of Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik get a bit less? I know the 3rd line has not had a lot of time to gel, and both lines have had players in and out. But the 4th line's been playing great while the 3rd line hasn't yet shone.

There's no doubt that the fourth line has been playing great, but I would rather have a great fourth line than promote it just so they could become a mediocre third line especially if it comes at the expense of playing time for Hagelin, Eller and Panik.

I don't think people realize just how little time the third line has had to play together this season. Monday's game was the first time we saw that trio together in a very long time.  Heading into that game, the Caps had played in 31 games this season. You know how much time those three players had played together at 5-on-5 through those 31 games? Just 23:13. That's crazy.

Washington has the most points of any team in the league. What's the harm in giving that third line time to gel at this point? Meanwhile, you can keep letting the fourth line be great.

Alex G. writes: Do you think Evander Kane should have been suspended for the hit on Radko Gudas in Tuesday night's game? I don't think the $5000 fine is really sufficient, considering what the league has suspended other players for.

I would have given him a game. I wouldn't have thrown the book at him, but I don't buy his explanation.

To be fair, it wasn't an elbow to the head or the butt-end, just a glove to the head.

Kane's explanation was that Gudas had taken a run at him earlier and he thought he was doing it again, so he put his hand up to protect himself and caught Gudas in the head because Gudas was coming in low. My problem with that explanation is that, if you watch the replay from behind both players, Kane has his head up and is watching the entire play. He sees Gudas coming and gives him what is, in my opinion, a deliberate shot to the head. It was not as if he saw him at the last second and threw his hand up and it just so happened to catch him in the head like he seems to claim. He knew Gudas was coming in low and I think he knew where he was aiming.

Michael Fleetwood writes: John Carlson has put himself squarely in the Norris Trophy conversation this season playing well overall and I was thinking about how he compares to Mike Green. Why did Green finish high in Norris voting in the years he was runner-up with a stronger offensive game to his defense, but Carlson hasn't come as close the last few seasons and is arguably better defensively?

Because of the complicated way we judge defensemen.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, the Norris Trophy Award is voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers' Association, of which I am a member. I had a vote last year and voted Carlson second.

Racking up the points seems to be more and more important for Norris Trophy consideration, but being an offensive defenseman who is a liability is a problem. How can you consider someone as the top defenseman if they aren't very good at defense?  You can't unless they do something so special it can't be ignored. Scoring 30 goals definitely qualifies.

Green scored 31 goals in the 2008-09 season. He was the first defenseman to crack the 30-goal mark since Kevin Hatcher did it in the 1992-93 season. No one has done it since. That was the first of two straight seasons Green was named the Norris runner-up. Scoring 30 goals was/is such an amazing accomplishment for a defenseman that Green received a lot of Norris votes as a result.

In my opinion, people cling to this belief that Carlson is nothing more than an offensive defenseman who is a liability in his own zone, which is just not the case. He was very good last year, but did not lead defensemen in either goals or points. There was no way he was going to gain much traction in the Norris race with voters who have a perception of him as an offensive defenseman when he wasn't even the top offensive defenseman last season.

This year I think he will finally get the recognition he deserves and ironically it is because of the incredible offensive run he is on. Hopefully, those numbers will make more analysts evaluate Carlson on both ends of the ice and realize that he is a great two-way defenseman and so much more than just Alex Ovechkin's power play set-up man.

David Dusseau writes: How much of John Carlson's recent success is due to changes that the Caps have made in how they are using their defensemen for offense?

I think that certainly is a big part of it. Todd Reirden implemented a new system this season in which the defense is expected to jump into the play when it is open in the offensive zone. This new system benefits Carlson more than anyone as he has the top offensive ceiling of all of the team's blue liners.

This is not the only reason for Carlson's success this season. His passes look more accurate and he has added a touch of deception to his game as he is able to look off defenders to help open passing and shooting lanes which he takes advantage of. He seems to be more confident with his shots as well. But I do think the new system has certainly had an effect.

Joseph Signorelli writes: Will the Caps have enough money to keep John Carlson if he keeps up this level of play all year?

I’ve got good news for you. The Caps absolutely will have enough money to keep Carlson because he is already signed through the 2025-26 season. That $8 million cap hit isn't going to change.

David Pittman writes: Is there a chance the Caps trade Holtby because of his age and the high cost he costs?

There is no chance the Caps trade Holtby this season. None. Zero. Washington's goal is to win the Stanley Cup and they right now hold the most points in the league. They are not going to turn around and trade away their top goalie just to avoid losing him for nothing.

Holtby is tied for the league-lead in wins and since Nov. 1 has a .925 save percentage and 2.34 GAA. I don't know how you trade a goalie like that and convince the team you're all in for a Cup run this year.

And, by the way, even if Ilya Samsonov is lights out and supplants Holtby as the starter at some point this season, Brian MacLellan still isn't going to trade Holtby because he saw the exact same thing happen in 2018. What happened when Philipp Grubauer entered the playoffs as the team's starter? Holtby retook the starting job after two games and led the team to the Cup. This roster is better with Holtby on it.

Will the Caps be able to re-sign Holtby in the offseason? I doubt it. Does it stink to lose a starting goalie for nothing? Yep, sure does. But the team is trying to make another run at the Cup and is not going to jeopardize that by trading away its starting goalie.

Michael Fleetwood: Does the Capitals' hot start put Todd Reirden into a still too-early Jack Adams discussion?

Reirden has done a fine job with this team through the first 32 games, but I seriously doubt that anyone has given much thought to him for the Jack Adams. 

Barry Trotz is turning what looks like a weak roster on paper into contenders on Long Island, Ralph Krueger has the Buffalo Sabres in playoff contention as does Joel Quenneville with the Panthers in Florida despite getting no goaltending, Mike Sullivan may get Pittsburgh into the playoffs despite its entire team being injured, Paul Maurice is doing the best coaching job of his career by keeping Winnipeg in playoff contention considering all the issues plaguing that team, Dave Tippett has an Edmonton Oilers team left for dead as one of the top teams in the conference and Arizona may actually make the playoffs this year with Rick Tocchet.

I have a hard time believing enough voters will vote for Reirden over those guys.

Mark Miller writes: How long does it take to change Capital One Arena from basketball setup to hockey?

A few hours. Fast enough that Georgetown can play a basketball game at 12 p.m. and the Caps can play at 7 p.m. on the same day. The next time this will happen is on Dec. 21. Media for the Georgetown game will still be in the media room writing when the Caps media start to arrive.

Yet somehow, the arena is ready for a hockey game that night and that includes the pregame warmups. It's incredible.

Lisa McKay writes: Could you find out if indeed the Capitals play more OT games than any other team in the NHL, or if it just feels that way? Say, in the regular season in the past 3 years?

Washington has played 12 games this season that have required overtime. That is indeed the most in the NHL. Going back to the 2017-18 season, the Caps have gone to overtime 47 times. That is not the most, but rather is tied for the eighth-most. Philadelphia actually has the most with 52.

Micah Reed writes: With all the OT the Caps have played and the current state of player tracking technology in both practice and games, do you think the coaching and training staff has any sort of "pitch count" type of thing tracking players overall ice time? Not that they will scratch guys or anything. But maybe practices change or guys miss some shifts in a blowout game.

Interesting thought, but I doubt it. I think coaches are always cognizant of how much playing time their star players are getting and are always looking to cut back when they can. They don't need added technology for that. Could this one day be how it is used? Perhaps. If the added technology does show there is reason to be concerned about overworking players, I think we will see morning skates go away long before we see coaches do anything approaching the "load management" we see in the NBA.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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How to vote your favorite Capitals players into the 2020 All-Star Game

How to vote your favorite Capitals players into the 2020 All-Star Game

Well, it's almost another election year. Practice getting to the ballots by submitting your NHL 2020 All-Star game votes to send your favorite Capitals to San Jose. 

Washington sits atop the Metropolitan Division through stellar play from players like T.J. Oshie, Braden Holtby, John Carlson, and Alex Ovechkin - all of whom are featured on the league's official ballot. 

Click here to VOTE for your favorite Capitals. 

Those four players are listed as the primary options to represent the division on Jan. 26, but fans can scroll down and type other names in like Evgeny Kuznetsov too. Fans can also vote through the NHL app

Last season, Alex Ovechkin was selected as the Metropolitan representative by fans in the all-new voting format. He ended up taking the game off due to rest and got a one-game suspension as a result. 

He's played in the all-star game seven times, missing the event on three occasions. 

If fans want to select a less glamorous all-star captain, then Carlson could be an excellent option. He's had a terrific season for a defender, leading the Caps in points with 43 (11 G, 33 A), which is good for sixth on the league's leaderboards. That's 10 points more than Ovechkin. 

Holtby has had another solid season in net despite constant pressure from his No. 2, Ilya Samsonov. Oshie's balanced 22 points (11 G, 11 A) puts him in contention as one of Washington's fan favorite's, but look for Jakub Vrana to garner some votes to thanks to his prolific scoring season, notching 15 dazzling goals already. 

It's the fourth consecutive year fans can vote for the division captains, the remaining all-stars are selected by the NHL Operations Department. Following the format introduced in 2016, there will be 44 all-stars in total - six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies for four teams for each division. Competing for the $1 million prize, the three-game, 3-on-3 tournament format will emphasize pace and offense to give an exciting style of play for the fans. 

All-star voting closes Sunday, Dec. 23. 

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